• Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by webfact

  1. Thailand struggles with drought nationwide, mass fish deaths BANGKOK, 26 April 2017 (NNT) - Thailand continues to contend with the dry season, as cloud-seeding operations alleviate water shortages in the Northeast. The Northeastern Royal Rainmaking Operation Center has been conducting cloud-seeding flights out of Buriram airport to increase precipitation in five provinces including Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Surin, Sisaket, and Chaiyaphum. Its 47 flights have resulted in minor to moderate rainfall in the five provinces, nourishing natural water sources and augmenting water stores for household consumption. Meanwhile, the 12th Royal Irrigation Office reported that agricultural activities in the Chao Phraya River Basin have exceeded expectations. However, water reserves this year have been deemed sufficient for all types of usage, and the office plans to release more water for agricultural irrigation on May 1st. In Kalasin province, farmers continued to send their crops to the local distribution center, to be sold in department stores across the province. Their crops include Chinese cabbage, spring onion, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and chili peppers. The distribution center reportedly allows local farmers to earn a steady income. Unfortunately, the hot weather has had dire consequences for aquaculture in the southern province of Songkhla. Local farmers have reported mass fish deaths, resulting in losses of 100,000 - 800,000 baht. They believe that high water temperatures followed by sudden rainfall were to blame. Farmers are encouraged to file for government assistance through the provincial offices of Fisheries, Livestock Development, or Agriculture and Cooperatives. -- nnt 2017-04-26
  2. Midweek Rant: Pack mentality – why keyboard warriors are no better than the Thais they criticize Every time a story hits the news about a mob attack in Thailand the keyboard warriors are quickly on the scene. Thaivisa forum is no different to any other site where Thai stories are viewed. Though not always without justification, they attack the mentality that sees cowardly locals ganging up ten on one on security guards or defenseless members of the public. An unpleasant attack on a handicapped guard in Bang Saen this week is a case in point. Ok, fair enough it is despicable behavior and the guilty parties need to be jailed. But the matter never ends there. The very same people who scream to anyone who will listen that this is standard Thai behavior are themselves just the same kind of gutless bullies. They will pick on virtually anyone – always weaker than them, always outnumbering them. If it was just the angst shown against some Thais who hunt in packs it might be tolerable – but it never stops there. Firstly they cast all Thai men with the same brush calling them weak and scared. Every one of the keyboard warriors would see them off in a fair, bare knuckle fistfight, one on one. But then they take it to the next level – a level that shows who they really are – just bullies. The keyboard warriors themselves, be it on internet forums, social media or in the comments section on news sites then gang up on sub groups in Thai society. They often don’t even realize what they are doing. They feel right is on their side as they agree with each other in attacking all manner of people in Thailand. They have now become the pack themselves. So who do they target? I shall pick just three groups. The first are lady boys. Despite this group of people representing a significant minority in Thailand they are all tarred with the same brush according to the internet pack. They are thieving good-for-nothings who should all be jailed without so much as a trial. Get them off our righteous streets, they yell indignantly. Mmm. Might this be that many of the warriors are Pattaya based and have yet been unable to broaden their horizons in any significant capacity. I don’t know – what I do know is that it is totally unfair to pick on lady boys and associate them with those in their group who might break the law. Even in Pattaya. Law abiding lady boys are not responsible for the actions of a small minority. But the warriors condemn them all and the vitriol is nothing short of what the Nazi’s did in referring to untermensch or “the masses from the East”. Then there are gays. A recent very happy story about a gay wedding in Thailand between a Brit and his male spouse also featured a swathe of homophobic comments – once again here were the self-proclaimed “full blooded males”, as they probably see themselves, ganging up ten on one at least. Sure, some used the story to bang on about dowries but many used it for veiled if not direct homophobia. And before they deny it saying it was just a “bit of banter”, that is not the way some gays who commented on Thaivisa saw that reaction. One was moved to thank a Sunday columnist for standing up to the bigoted bashers. Is it right that people in our community should feel threatened for a lifestyle that is a little different to the “norm”. Of course it is not, everyone deserves respect and the right to lead their lives as they see fit within the law. My third “disadvantaged” group is the innocent. The pack online is never more vociferous than when a suspect has been arrested for a crime. These weedy warriors are convinced of their guilt just because the story is in the papers or online and like a pack of baying hounds they turn on the suspect with their gnashers drooling spit as they spout their interminable nonsense about “hanging them high” and “rightful retribution” awaiting in the shower rooms of Thai prisons. Not for them the courts, the pack have decided…and they of course are always right because they are so goddamn smart. So much smarter than everyone else in Thailand. Amid all the attacks it is noticeable that it is invariably Thai men who seem to be the root cause of society’s ills as the warriors complain of their “childishness” and “laziness”. With so few Thais on a forum like Thaivisa or commenting on the popular expat social media groups there are hardly any to speak up for them as the pack descends. And of course is people defend them, they are condemned as “apologists”. Absurd. But interestingly, these abject bullies hardly ever seem to turn on Thai women. Maybe they are scared that their strong Thai wives might be looking over their shoulders as they type. Bullies always fear strength, don’t they. -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-04-26
  3. Phuket Immigration confirms 90-day reporting online is back Tanyaluk Sakoot The '90 days (Online)' button on the Phuket Immigration website - and the online system for processing 90-day reports online - are operational again. Image Screengrab PHUKET: -- The Immigration Bureau’s online portal for foreigners to complete their 90-day reporting is operational again after months of recurring issues which rendered the service unusable. “The system had been unable to process online applications due to server issues since February 9 (see story here),” said Maj Worapol Panpeth, an inspector at the Phuket Immigration Office. “But now the 90-day online reporting service can be used by individuals, and the 24-hour online service for hotels to file their reports (of which foreigners have checked in to their respective resorts) is operational, too,” he added. Full story: http://www.thephuketnews.com/phuket-immigration-confirms-90-day-reporting-online-is-back-61915.php -- © Copyright Phuket News 2017-04-26
  4. Macron, Le Pen trade accusations in French election race By John Irish REUTERS Emmanuel Macron (C), head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, speaks to journalists during a visit to the Hopital Raymond-Poincare in Garches, near Paris, France, April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Lionel Bonaventure/Pool PARIS (Reuters) - France's two presidential candidates traded barbs on Tuesday with centrist Emmanuel Macron accusing far-right rival Marine Le Pen of promoting hatred, while she labelled him as the "candidate of the oligarchy." Macron and Le Pen, leader of the National Front (FN), go head-to-head on May 7 after taking the top two places in Sunday's first round. Opinion polls indicate that the business-friendly Macron, who has never held elected office, will take at least 60 percent of the vote against Le Pen after two defeated rivals pledged to back him to thwart her eurosceptic, anti-immigrant platform. However, since Sunday Le Pen has been on the offensive. She has portrayed the 39-year-old former investment banker as weak in the face of Islamist militancy, the heir to unpopular outgoing President Francois Hollande and part of the country's privileged elite. Macron has also come under fire from potential allies and Le Pen for acting as if victory next month was already in the bag after visiting a restaurant on the Left Bank on Sunday night after his first round triumph, handing ammunition to his opponents who described it as shallow, arrogant behaviour. Speaking after Hollande warned him earlier in the day against taking victory for granted, Macron sought to regain some initiative. "Some have woken up with a hangover because Le Pen is there. I haven't," Macron told reporters after his first campaign trip since Sunday. "Nothing is won ... I have never considered one minute that it was won. My battle is to defeat Marine Le Pen." On France 2 television, Macron said the 48-year-old Le Pen would bring disaster to the economy and divide it with "hatred". "When I hear Madame Le Pen's slogans, her tones and her gestures, I see a lot more brutality on her side than mine. The brutal project, the project of hate and rejection is not on my side," he added. A Harris poll published late on Tuesday showed that more than 60 percent of French people believed that Le Pen had begun her campaign better than Macron with more than 40 percent considering Macron's restaurant celebration a mistake. Seeking to capitalise on her momentum, Le Pen has attempted to distance herself from her own party, saying she was not the candidate of the National Front, only supported by it, and was in fact the "candidate of the people" fighting the "candidate of the oligarchy." "My opponent has a vision that is disembodied. He only has eyes for the big cities. He is addressing them," she said, adding that unlike Macron she had campaigned in rural France. "The election is not done. The oligarchy has already installed Emmanuel Macron in the president's seat. The people will reserve a major surprise for the oligarchy," she said. (Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Gareth Jones and Sandra Maler) -- © Copyright Reuters 2017-04-26
  5. Tesco's Taste of Thailand fest in UK aims to push Thai export By The Nation Tesco Lotus is hosting the ‘Taste of Thailand’ festival in London to promote Thai products among UK customers John Christie, CEO of Tesco Lotus, is joined by Sonthirat Sonthijirawong, deputy commerce minister, at the opening ceremony of the Taste of Thailand festival at the Tesco Kensington store in the heart of London to promote a variety of Thai products bearing the Thailand Trust Mark, as well as exotic fruits from Thailand to customers in the UK. The Thai products will be available at 250 Tesco stores in the UK, giving Thai farmers and businesses an opportunity to reach international markets. For the past decade, Tesco Lotus has exported a variety of Thai products including fruit, chicken meat, shrimp, groceries, pet food, stationery and toys, to markets in Central Europe and Asia. In 2016, the value of Thai products exported to Tesco stores in the UK has nearly doubled to more than Bt7.7 billion. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/business/30313412 -- © Copyright The Nation 2017-04-26
  6. Hunt on for taxi driver accused of raping Brazilian tourist By The Nation SUPHAN BURI: -- A Brazilian woman who hailed a taxi at Bangkok’s Don Mueang International airport was allegedly raped by the taxi driver in a field in Suphan Buri late on Tuesday, police said. The badly injured tourist was spotted by local residents of Moo 8 village in Tambon Thung Khok in Suphan Buri’s Song Phi Nong district late Tuesday night. Police were informed about the incident at 11.30pm and the woman was sent to a hospital. The woman told police that she had flown in from Kuala Lumpur, arriving at Don Mueang airport at 1.30pm on Tuesday. She took a yellow-and-green taxi from Airport Hotel and asked him to take her to Soi Thong Lor. She said she noticed that her phone signal died while riding the taxi, as a result she lost communication with her friend on Line app. She said the driver stopped the taxi in a field and tried to rape her. When she resisted, she was repeatedly hit and then raped. She said the driver left her at the scene and sped off. Suphan Buri police chief Pol Maj-General Sukhun Prommayon said police would make a facial sketch of the suspect and would check CCTV feeds to try and arrest him. The victim was later transferred to Police General Hospital in Bangkok. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30313394 -- © Copyright The Nation 2017-04-26
  7. Midweek Rant: Pack mentality – why keyboard warriors are no better than the Thais they criticize Every time a story hits the news about a mob attack in Thailand the keyboard warriors are quickly on the scene. Full story: https://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/980243-midweek-rant pack-mentality-–-why-keyboard-warriors-are-no-better-than-the-thais they-criticize/
  8. Outrage after Facebook Live murder of baby By THE NATION Heartbroken family members were in tears yesterday as they retrieved the bodies of a father and his baby daughter for funeral ceremonies. The man’s murder of the baby was broadcast on Facebook Live. BANGKOK: -- Facebook has removed a horrific video clip that showed a man putting a noose around his 11-month-old baby daughter’s neck and hanging her from the roof of an abandoned building in Phuket, following an uproar. "This is an appalling incident and our hearts go out to the family of the victim. There is absolutely no place for content of this kind on Facebook and it has now been removed," Facebook spokesperson said in an official statement yesterday. Earlier in the day, the Public Health Ministry had urged the online giant to remove the video from the Internet. The father committed suicide after the killing, but that act was not included in the Facebook Live broadcast. Heartbroken family members were in tears yesterday as they retrieved the bodies of the man and his baby daughter for funeral ceremonies. The clip, which lasted more than four minutes, shocked the public and left the family distraught. Ministry spokesman Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, who also heads the Somdet Chaopraya Institute of Psychiatry, said earlier in the day that Facebook had to remove the clip immediately as it could cause depression and could prompt copycat suicides. “If his family members have no access to his Facebook account, Facebook must take action. It’s Facebook’s responsibility,” he said. He said he expected that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission would raise the issue with Facebook and encourage it to introduce features that would help to prevent a repeat of such incidents. “In the United States there are monitoring programmes to link suicidal people to help hotlines,” he said. “We should have such features in Thailand too.” The Phuket tragedy involved a 21-year-old man who was apparently angry over his wife leaving him. The father, whose name was withheld in accordance with the law, broadcast the tragic incident at about 5.45pm on Monday. The video remained online for approximately 24 hours. The Facebook Live clip went viral and was drawn to the attention of the mother who rushed to seek help from police. In the clip, the man was seen sitting with the baby girl on the rooftop of the multi-storey deserted building. He was seen looping plastic ties together and placing a noose around the neck of the infant, who is wearing only a diaper. He then dropped her down from the edge of the rooftop holding onto the plastic ties. The baby is heard crying briefly before her father pulled her up and untied the knot. She is then heard crying briefly. The mother said she had quarrelled with her husband because he suspected she had a relationship with another man. The woman said she left their house after he checked her phone and threatened to kill her at about 3am on Monday. “I accompanied my younger sister when she collected her things from his home and tried to settle the issue with him. But he said he needed to run some errands and took his daughter with him,” said a male relative. The relative said he had no idea what was going on until he saw the clip on Facebook. The 21-year-old mother went to Thalang Police Station at about 6.30pm after learning about the clip. Police searched the area for the deserted building that was shown on the video and eventually found it near a five-star hotel at Naithon Beach in tambon Choeng Thalay of Thalang district. They found the father had hanged himself from a beam inside the building and the body of the baby girl was lying on the rooftop. Phuket Governor Norapat Plodthong said social workers would provide counselling to the baby’s mother. Facebook has previously admitted that broadcasts of murders and suicides have been an issue that it has taken steps to prevent. In reference to a previous video clip of a murder in Cleveland that was uploaded to Facebook, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said: “We have a lot of work, and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.” On April 16, a Cleveland man uploaded the video clip of him shooting and killing Robert Godwin Sr, a 74-year-old grandfather who was on his way home from an Easter meal with his family. The News Broadcasting Council of Thailand yesterday released a statement to condemn media outlets that broadcast the baby killing and urged TV stations to uphold ethics in their coverage. A TV station was strongly criticised on Facebook for replaying the clip of the baby’s murder. A popular Facebook page, “DramaAddict”, said although the station blurred the faces, the baby was heard crying. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30313351 -- © Copyright The Nation 2017-04-26
  9. Plucky German tourist foils Pattaya lady boy pickpocket Picture: Chonburi News PATTAYA: -- A plucky German tourist made a citizen's arrest on a baht bus in Pattaya after a lady boy stole money from his pocket. Fifty nine year old Thomas Broschart was on his way back to his hotel on the baht bus in North Pattaya when it stopped to pick up a lady boy, reported Chonburi News. As the bus moved along the lady boy made advances to the tourist and tried to get very close to him. But the game German noticed that the lady boy had lifted some money from his pocket and he grabbed the man's arm and held on tight. He then notified the cops. The lady boy - 50 year old Penphat Suphaphat - was still under arrest when the cops arrived at the Pla Loma (Dolphin) Roundabout. Some 1,220 baht was taken into evidence. Penphat was charged with theft during the hours of darkness and prepared for a court appearance. Source: Chonburi News -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-04-26
  10. Activist detained after filing complaint about Siamese Revolution plaque By The Nation BANGKOK: -- Pro-democracy activist Ekachai Hongkangwan was detained at the 11th Military Circle after attempting to submit a complaint regarding the missing Siamese Revolution plaque at Government House on Tuesday. A police officer at Ladprao Police Station told the Thai Human Rights Lawyers (THRL) group that the activist had been detained according to an arrest warrant, adding that he had been taken to the 11th Military Circle, the THRL tweeted on Tuesday. The group had not been able to contact Ekachai as of press time. The pro-democracy group Resistant Citizens was scheduled to stage a symbolic demonstration at Victory Monument and march to the 11th Military Circle unless Ekachai was released. A security agency source said Ekachai had been invited for “a talk to create some mutual understanding” at the military circle as the activist attempted to submit a complaint calling for an investigation regarding the missing plaque. The source said officers were afraid his actions could create confusion in the public. The talk would take time and Ekachai would be released if a “mutual understanding” was reached, the source said. Ekachai has been previously convicted of lese majeste and works on behalf of political prisoners at the newly established association For Friends. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30313322 -- © Copyright The Nation 2017-04-25
  11. Booed in Berlin for praising father, IvankaTrump says fine-tuning role By Michelle Martin REUTERS Ivanka Trump, daughter and adviser of U.S. President DonaldTrump, arrives for a dinner in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Sohn/Pool BERLIN (Reuters) - Ivanka Trump was booed in Berlin on Tuesday when she described her father Donald as a "tremendous champion of supporting families" and said she was still fine-tuning her role as first daughter and informal White House adviser. Trump, 35, who is seen as an increasingly important influence on her father, told a women's summit organised by the Group of 20 major economies in the German capital that she wanted to use her influence to help empower women. Asked whether she represented the president, the American people or her business as first daughter, she replied: "Well certainly not the latter, and I am rather unfamiliar with this role ... it has been a little under 100 days but it has just been a remarkable and incredible journey." Ivanka Trump's appointment as an adviser, with access to classified information, was highly unusual for the daughter of a president. Seeking to allay ethics concerns, she said last month she would serve in the White House in an unpaid, informal role. In Berlin, she discussed support for women entrepreneurs with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde among others. "I'm listening, I'm learning, I'm defining the ways in which I think that I'll be able to have impact," she told the panel discussion. "I'm seeking the counsel .. . of informed and thoughtful women and men and I'm really striving to think about how best to empower women in the economy, both domestically and across the globe." But the audience was unsympathetic when she called her father a "tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive", with the moderator moving the discussion on amid a chorus of boos. PROUD FATHER Donald Trump found himself at the centre of a furious controversy during the presidential campaign when a video surfaced in which he boasted about grabbing women's genitals. Asked whether some of the attitudes expressed by her father raised questions over his commitment to empowering women, Ivanka Trump said her experience and that of thousands of women who had worked for him showed he believed in women's potential. "I grew up in a house where there were no barriers to what I could accomplish ... there was no difference for me and my brothers and I think as a business leader you saw that and as a president you'll absolutely see that," she said. During the Berlin discussion, Donald Trump tweeted a link to a Financial Times editorial Ivanka co-authored with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on investment in women and said he was "proud" of his daughter for "her leadership on these important issues". Ivanka Trump's visit has received a mixed response in German media. The newspaper Berliner Zeitung, which has described her as "the president's whisperer", said German officials would "certainly be hoping that the president's daughter will convey a positive image of Germany to her father". Another paper, Tagesspiegel, was more sniffy about her credentials, opining that Trump's dependence on family members - also including her husband Jared Kushner, a chief presidential adviser - was like a "vote of no confidence" in everyone else he was surrounded by. (additional reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Richard Lough) -- © Copyright Reuters 2017-04-26
  12. Mad cop caught on tape - now he wants to get the Facebook poster! Picture: Daily News KRABI: -- A Krabi policeman who was caught on tape taking a kick at some rubbish said a car pulled out on him making him come off his bike. But CCTV footage later obtained appeared to back up the view that the car driver was not in the wrong. The policeman had simply come off his bike. Now as the clip does the rounds of social media the policeman has threatened the driver's friend who posted the CCTV footage, reported Daily News. The clip showed Siriporn Solaem, 22, in her white car, looking for a parking space. She had to cross the road to find a spot. The policeman falls off his bike at low speed then gets up and kicks out at some trash, clearly very agitated. Siriporn said that he demanded 2,000 baht for damage to his bike and injury to two children who were on the back. She was not sure at the time if she was in the wrong. But when a friend asked a shop for their CCTV footage she seemed to be vindicated. Wen it was posted online and so many people commented the policeman called the friend through Facebook messenger to say he would take action against her. Siriporn told Daily News Online she wants to let the matter rest. Source: Daily News -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-04-26
  13. Street food festival planned for Bangkok in June Yaowarat//Photo by Thanis Sudto BANGKOK: -- The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is in discussions with Bangkok authorities to host the “Bangkok Street Food Festival”, tentatively set for June. TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said recently that the idea would be in line with CNN’s listing of Bangkok as the city with the best street food in the world. The festival will be held in some major roads of the capital such as Khao San, Yaowarat and Pratunam area. Details will be discussed later, the governor said. He denied reports that all street food will be banned from Bangkok, saying the moves afoot were just aimed at regulating the business to ensure order and food hygiene. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30313195 -- © Copyright The Nation 2017-04-24
  14. Monk in robes crashes his mate's souped up car just on eve of leaving the monkhood Picture: Daily News SUPHANBURI: -- A monk in robes borrowed his mate's car and took it for a spin on the roads near his Suphanburi temple. Unfortunately no sooner had he got out of the temple and put the orange motor into top gear, he hit a tree and was trapped inside with another friend. It all happened yesterday - just one day before Phra Thapanat Chaiyasut, 31, was to leave the monkhood. Sam Chuk police and medics rushed to the scene of the accident yesterday and founf the monk and Bunrit Pheungcharoen, 19, trapped in the car that was severely damaged. The monk broke his arm and had a leg injury. His passenger was unconscious and immediately taken to hospital, reported Daily News. Police discovered that Phra Thapanat had been visited by a friend and had asked to borrow his car. He raced out of the temple at high speed and almost immediately lost control crashing into a tree. It was not reported if there were any amulets in the car. Source: Daily News -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-04-26
  15. World Bank, IMF concerned for Thailand’s economic outlook BANGKOK, 26 April 2017 (NNT) - Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn has disclosed that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expressed concern for Thailand’s 10-year outlook. The Development Committee, a ministerial-level forum of the World Bank Group and the IMF, held its 95th meeting from April 23rd - 25th in Washington DC. Each year, the meeting brings together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives, and academics to discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook, poverty, economic development, and foreign aid. According to Apiradi, the two banks expressed concern for Thailand’s aging population and relatively low average income, which could result in an overburdened welfare system. The Development Committee communique also suggests that world economy is recovering, but commodity prices have lagged behind. It also pointed to uncertainty stemming from national economic policies and conflict on the Korean peninsula. -- nnt 2017-04-26
  16. Trump to meet Australian PM, relations strained over asylum seekers By Colin Packham and Jeff Mason REUTERS U.S. President Donald Trump delivers the keynote address at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's "Days of Remembrance" ceremony in the The Capitol Rotunda on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, U.S April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas SYDNEY/WASHINGTON (Reuters)) - U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on May 4 in New York City as the two nations seek to repair a relationship strained by a row over an asylum seeker resettlement deal. The meeting will be the first between the two leaders. Relations were strained after an acrimonious telephone call shortly after Trump's inauguration, during which Trump labelled the Australia-U.S. resettlement swap agree to with former U.S. President Barack Obama as a "dumb" deal. Turnbull said the 75th anniversary of the World War Two "Battle of the Coral Sea" celebrations in New York City offered a chance for the two nations to "reaffirm our alliance". The bilateral meeting will follow a speech by Trump aboard the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier turned museum on the Hudson River, to mark the anniversary of the Coral Sea battle, during which U.S. and Australian troops fought the Japanese, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said. Australia is one of Washington's staunchest allies and troops from the two nations have fought alongside each other in all major conflicts, most recently Iraq and Afghanistan. Late last year, Obama agreed to resettle up to 1,250 asylum seekers held in Australian-funded camps in the South Pacific, in exchange for Australia resettling refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. But in February, Trump criticised the deal, accusing Australia of trying to export the "next Boston bombers" under the agreement, the Washington Post reported. Eager to repair the relationship, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence last week visited Australia and confirmed Washington would begrudgingly honour the refugee deal with Canberra, only out of respect for the alliance between the two countries. (Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Michael Perry) -- © Copyright Reuters 2017-04-26
  17. Senior officials linked to blackmail, forced prostitution of teenager in Mae Hong Son By The Nation Boonyarit Nippawanich (centre), chair of the Deputy District Chief Federations of Thailand, asks the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to help bring culprits to justice yesterday. BANGKOK: -- A CHAT with a police friend about young, part-time prostitutes turned into a nightmare for one mother after she found that one of the girls available for sex was her own daughter, who later revealed how she had been lured into taking drugs, blackmailed and coerced into the flesh trade. The daughter, who is now 19, was a minor at the time she was victimised. The trouble began after she tried ‘yaba’ – methamphetamine – at the encouragement of another woman, who had rescued her from the threat of a physical assault. Her drug-taking was recorded and used to blackmail her, her mother said. “She was told if she did not agree to sell her body to senior officials, she would be prosecuted for drug offences,” said the mother, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her daughter’s identity. Seeking justice for her daughter, she found out that several other girls had fallen into the same trap. She claimed that a procurement gang sends members to bully a target and threaten to attack her, then assigns another member to act as a saviour. When the targeted female trusts the fake saviour, she exposes herself to blackmail. Although these crimes have been taking place for years, the story, which seems at times like a sordid movie plot, is only now starting to be exposed to the public in Mae Hong Son. The 43-year-old mother, who was formerly an informant for anti-narcotics police, has now sought protection from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security in Bangkok out of concerns for her safety. “After I lodged complaints with the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division [ATPD], I noticed that someone had followed me and tapped my phone,” she said. The mother then decided to speak to media in the hope they would be able to help bring attention to her daughter’s case and ensure the delivery of justice. Boonyarit Nippawanich, chair of the Deputy District Chief Federations of Thailand, asked the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) yesterday to take over the case from police. “Damaged parties are now worried that they may not get justice given that the accused include a policeman and several senior government officials,” he said. Boonyarit is also the deputy district chief of Mae Sariang in Mae Hong Son. Word has also spread that the suspects have raised a large amount of money, which is meant to influence authorities to dismiss the case. Deputy police spokesman Pol Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen said any policeman who violated the law would not be spared. An anonymous source said the ATPD team would go to Mae Hong Son soon with warrants to arrest many suspects. Deputy National Police Commissioner Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul confirmed that police were in the process of seeking an arrest warrant for one suspect and of gathering evidence to seek arrest warrants for other alleged accomplices too. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30313252 -- © Copyright The Nation 2017-04-25
  18. Thai police to review ways to take down online content after Facebook killing By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat Jiranuch Trirat, mother of 11-month-old daughter who was killed by her father who broadcast the murder on Facebook, stands next to a picture of her daughter at a temple in Phuket, Thailand April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Sooppharoek Teepapan BANGKOK (Reuters) - Police in Thailand on Wednesday said they would discuss how to speed up taking down "inappropriate online content" after a man broadcast himself killing his 11-month-old daughter in a live video on Facebook. Two videos, which were available for nearly 24 hours before they were taken down, show Wuttisan Wongtalay hanging his daughter from a building on the southern Thai island of Phuket on Monday before he turned off the camera and killed himself. "In the future we will discuss inappropriate online content, whether on Facebook or YouTube or Instagram, and how we can speed up taking this content down," deputy national police spokesman Kissana Phatanacharoen told reporters. It was not immediately clear how authorities plan to speed things up. Police had asked the Ministry of Digital Economy to contact Facebook about removing the videos. The ministry in turn contacted Facebook on Tuesday and the videos were taken down at around 5 p.m. in Bangkok that day, nearly a day after they had been uploaded. The videos, which drew nearly half a million views before they were taken down, sparked outrage among netizens and prompted questions about how Facebook's reporting system works and how violent content can be flagged faster. The case is the latest in a string of violent crimes that have plagued Facebook despite making up a small percentage of videos. On Tuesday a Swedish court jailed three men for the rape of a woman that was broadcast live on Facebook. Last week, Facebook said it was reviewing how it monitored violent footage and other objectionable material after a posting of the fatal shooting of a man in Cleveland, Ohio was visible for two hours before being taken down. WHAT TOOK SO LONG? Some are asking what took authorities in Thailand so long to act. Kissana blamed the delay partly on the time difference between the United States, where Facebook is headquartered, and Thailand. "We did the best we could but there's the time difference issue because Facebook is headquartered in San Francisco," Kissana said, without elaborating. He said Thai police currently have two ways of being alerted about disturbing content: monitoring by a dedicated technology crime suppression division or a tip-off from the public using police hotlines. A cousin of the baby’s mother told Reuters the family was too traumatised to think about removing the video from Facebook. “We didn’t think about removing the video because all we wanted to do at the time was find them [the father and baby] first,” said Suksan Buachanit, 29. Thailand's digital ministry said it would review how it handles similar cases in the future. "We will take this as a lesson and come up with a solution ... but this is not something we can do immediately," ministry spokesman Somsak Khaosuwan told Reuters. Police said the killing was the first in Thailand known to have been broadcast on Facebook. They said the crime was driven by jealousy because Wuttisan was afraid his wife would leave him for another man. Thailand's health ministry said it records on average 1-2 suicide videos a month that are posted to social media, including YouTube and Facebook. (Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Additional reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat in PHUKET; Editing by Bill Tarrant) -- © Copyright Reuters 2017-04-26
  19. OPINION Thai democracy missing more than just a revolution plaque By Tulsathit Taptim The Nation What differentiates democracy from other political systems is that it doesn’t really need a symbol. The Michael Douglas character in the Hollywood blockbuster “The American President” hit the nail on the head when he said, in defence of his girlfriend who had joined protesters in burning the US flag, that the true spirit of advanced, democratic citizenship lies in tolerance of hostility and ideologies that don’t conform to your thinking. That statement could be applied to the “missing plaque” in Thailand. The essence of his remark is this: For democracy to thrive, the onus is not on the flag burners, but those who may not like what the former do but accept their right to do it anyway. “You want free speech?” the Douglas character says, “Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing centre stage and advocating at the top of his lungs what you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn the flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the ‘land of the free’.” If that’s a great summary of true democracy, then we obviously have a lot of problems in Thailand. Tolerance here is minimal. People calling themselves “pro-democracy” give symbols too much importance. When products of democracy face protests, the protesters are condemned, stereotyped and are likely to be wiped out at the earliest opportunity. Charges of untoward conduct are easily dismissed, not by evidence to the contrary but by how much power one has in Parliament. In short, the pro-democracy movement in Thailand is in danger of becoming its own worst enemy. The right to cry foul over the missing plaque is embedded in democracy. But it has to be a healthy democracy with an efficient check-and-balance system, a respectable legislature and properly functioning courts of law. As we can see, this country is missing a lot more than a revolution plaque where democracy is concerned. We can place the plaque back where it was and surround it with the best anti-theft barricade in the world, but that doesn’t mean our on-and-off democracy will suddenly be all right. Again, the onus is not on the ones who have taken the plaque, but on the people bemoaning its absence. As the Douglas character said, if you want democracy, “you gotta want it bad, ’cos it’s gonna put up a fight”. And the fight is not against those responsible for a plaque’s disappearance. What he means is democracy will keep testing you, even when you think you have a good hold of it. True democracy continuously seeks to separate the fake from the genuine articles. It always wants to make sure you are worthy of it. Other political systems can have symbols. Religions also take symbols seriously. “Democracy lovers” can choose to duplicate them, or fine-tune their mindsets so that the ideology they advocate matters more when ingrained in their conscience. The integrity of a plaque is far less significant than the solidity of our own ideological wills. True democracy is saying “We don’t need a symbol.” It’s not only because a symbol is nothing without the true yearning for equality, but also because the symbol can misguide weak minds about rights to protest or human rights as a whole. True democracy is saying “History is nowhere near as important as the future, because while the other systems can afford a comfort zone, we cannot. And true democracy is saying “Even though the other systems cannot tolerate us, we will tolerate them.” Which means that if we cannot tolerate a plaque’s disappearance, what chance do we really have? Coming to think of it, if democracy really needs a symbol, maybe it’s the willingness to understand why the plaque went missing. Such a willingness could be the biggest symbol of all. Democracy requires a much greater responsibility than protecting a commemoration plaque, and its advocates have to do a lot more than raising noise over its disappearance. Anyone in any ideological system can be assigned to guard a plaque, but not everyone can shrug off its absence by saying “It’s just a symbol.” Which is why the situation in Thailand is quite peculiar, because the fierce “fight” doesn’t necessarily mean people “want it bad”. A lot of “fighters” are crying for the missing plaque, but not everyone in this country is crying over the missing ingredients of true democracy, which has probably become elusive for good reasons. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/opinion/tulsathit/30313364 -- © Copyright The Nation 2017-04-26
  20. Trump's concession on wall funding removes obstacle from spending talks By Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan REUTERS U.S. President Donald Trump says the border wall with Mexico will get built. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The threat of a U.S. government shutdown this weekend appeared to recede on Tuesday after President Donald Trump backed away from a demand that Congress include funding for his plannedborder wall with Mexico in a spending bill. However, even if the fight over wall funding is over, Republicans and Democrats still have some difficult issues to resolve as they face a Friday night deadline. There was growing sentiment in Congress that they will need to opt for a short-term extension of current spending, possibly of one week's duration, in order to finish up negotiations on the longer-term bill for funding through the end of September. “Yeah, it looks like it,” said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Senate Appropriations Committee member, when asked by a reporter about the likelihood of a short-term extension. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, however, that it was too soon to talk about such a possibility and that negotiations were still under way to reach a longer-term deal. Trump removed a crucial sticking point when he said on Monday evening that he may wait until Republicans begin drafting the budget blueprint for the fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1 to seek funds for the wall. The president's fellow Republicans control both chambers of Congress, but the current spending bill, which has to be passed by Friday night, will need 60 votes to clear the 100-member Senate, where Republicans hold 52 seats. Democratic leaders had said they would not support a bill that included funds for the wall. If no spending measure covering April 29 to Sept. 30 is in place before 12:01 a.m. (0401 GMT) on Saturday, government funds will halt and hundreds of thousands of the country's several million federal employees will be temporarily laid off. Trump had run the risk of being blamed by Democrats for a shutdown whose start would coincide with the day he marks 100 days in office. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer welcomed Trump's Monday night comments and noted that there were opponents of the wall among Republicans too. “It’s really good news that the president seems to be taking the wall off the table," Schumer said on the Senate floor on Tuesday. “It would remove the prospect of a needless fight over a poison pill proposal that members of both parties don’t support. ... If the threat of the wall is removed, as I hope is the case, our negotiations can continue and we can, hopefully, resolve all of the outstanding issues by Friday.” SHORT-TERM OPTION The border wall, which Trump says is the best way to halt the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the country, was a signature election pledge last year. By dropping his call for immediate funding for it, he may clear a path to a spending bill but he loses something to tout as progress on his agenda since taking office on Jan. 20. A White House effort later this year to get Congress to fund the wall could face a similar fate given that some Republicans also oppose it. Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who represents the southwestern border state of Arizona, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, said there is a need for a wall in some border locations and alternative deterrents in others. “A lot of us have been pushing for additional border security funding for a while, but a solitary 2,000-mile wall has never been a must-have for anybody in a border state,” he said. Trump, however, said he had not changed his stance, tweeting on Tuesday, "It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc." Trump has said Mexico will eventually repay the United States for the wall, but the Mexican government has been adamant it will not do so, and Trump has not laid out a plan to compel it. Internal Department of Homeland Security estimates have put the cost at $21.6 billion. Republican Senator Roger Wicker said there was a "substantial figure" in the spending bill dedicated to border security. Such spending, not explicitly for awall, would likely be acceptable to both parties. Congressman Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, said he would advise his colleagues to support a short-term funding proposal only if a longer-term fix was imminent. Short-term funding measures, which are known as continuing resolutions and which cover periods of days or weeks, have been used to avert government shutdowns in the past. But in 2013, conservative Republicans forced a 17-day shutdown in a failed attempt to repeal then-President Barack Obama's healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act. (Additional reporting by Amanda Becker; Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Jonathan Oatis) -- © Copyright Reuters 2017-04-26
  21. North Korea says it is ready to strike U.S. aircraft carrier By James Pearson and Steve Holland REUTERS The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the South China Sea while conducting flight operations on April 9, 2017. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet. Picture taken on April 9, 2017 Z.A. Landers/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, in the latest sign of rising tension as U.S. President Donald Trump prepared to call the leaders of China and Japan. The United States ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to mounting concern over the North's nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies. The U.S. government has not specified where the carrier strike group is as it approaches the area. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive "within days," but gave no other details. North Korea remained defiant. "Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike," the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary. The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a "gross animal" and said a strike on it would be "an actual example to show our military's force". The commentary was carried on page three of the newspaper, after a two-page feature about leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a pig farm. A senior U.S. administration official said Trump was expected to speak later on Sunday with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In another sign of the intense focus on Pyongyang in Washington, the White House is expected to host U.S. senators for a top-level briefing on North Korea on Wednesday, a White House official said. The official said the briefing would be led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks the North could soon stage another nuclear test, something the United States, China and others have warned against. South Korea has put its forces on heightened alert. China, North Korea's sole major ally, opposes Pyongyang's weapons programmes and has appealed for calm. The United States has called on China to do more to help defuse the tension. Speaking during a visit to Greece, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there were already enough shows of force and confrontation and appealed for calm. "We need to issue peaceful and rational sounds," Wang said, according to a statement issued by China's Foreign Ministry. U.S. CITIZEN DETAINED Adding to the tensions, North Korea detained a Korean-American man in his 50s, bringing the total number of U.S. citizens held by Pyongyang to three. The man, Tony Kim, had been in North Korea for a month teaching accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the institution's chancellor, Chan-Mo Park, told Reuters. He was arrested at Pyongyang International Airport on his way out of the country. The arrest took place on Saturday morning local time, the university said in a statement, and was "related to an investigation into matters that are not connected in any way to PUST". North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday. It has in the past marked important anniversaries with tests of its weapons. North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States. It has also carried out a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions. North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting Trump. He has vowed to prevent the North from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike. WORRY IN JAPAN North Korea says its nuclear programme is for self-defence and has warned the United States of a nuclear attack in response to any aggression. It has also threatened to lay waste to South Korea and Japan. The U.S. defence secretary said on Friday that North Korea's recent statements were provocative but had proven to be hollow in the past and should not be trusted. "We've all come to hear their words repeatedly; their word has not proven honest," Mattis told a news conference in Tel Aviv, before the latest threat to the aircraft carrier. Two Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left western Japan on Friday to join the Carl Vinson and will "practice a variety of tactics" with the U.S. strike group, the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force said in a statement. The Japanese force did not specify where the exercises were taking place, but the destroyers by Sunday could have reached an area 2,500 km (1,500 miles) south of Japan, which would be east of the Philippines. From there, it could take three days to reach waters off the Korean peninsula. Japan's ships would accompany the Carl Vinson north at least into the East China Sea, a source with knowledge of the plan said. Japan's show of naval force reflects growing concern that North Korea could strike it with nuclear or chemical warheads. Some Japanese ruling party lawmakers are urging Abe to acquire strike weapons that could hit North Korean missile forces before any imminent attack. Japan's navy, which is mostly a destroyer fleet, is the second largest in Asia after China's. (Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL, Tim Kelly in TOKYO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by James Pearson and Phil Stewart; Editing by Alexander Smith and Peter Cooney) -- © Copyright Reuters 2017-04-24
  22. Witchdoctor Killed by Revengeful Family After Curse Allegedly Stops Husband Defecating by CityNews CityNews – A famous witchdoctor in Omkio was shot dead by 15 bullets to the anus by a hitman on April 21, believed to be hired by a family who had allegedly been cursed by the doctor, preventing the husband from being able to defecate properly. On April 21, the body of 61-year-old Sangmanee Jaratfah, a Karen witchdoctor, was found in Omkoi by a Yang Kaeo Forest Protection Officer, with 15 bullet holes in and around his anus. On April 24, police arrested three suspects, 26-year-old Somporn Ratcharoem, 40-year-old Athipan Ratcharoem and 39-year-old Tang-yu Ratcharoem, in connection to the murder after an investigation that identified them as a family who often used the witchdoctor but had recently fallen out over several issues. The family members were arrested and then they confessed to hiring a hitman to kill the witchdoctor out of revenge for past curses and to help lift another curse. Full story: http://www.chiangmaicitylife.com/news/witchdoctor-killed-by-revengeful-family-after-curse-allegedly-stops-husband-defecating/ -- © Copyright Chiang City News 2017-04-25
  23. More sickening violence as 10 men attack handicapped guard in Bang Saen Picture: Thai Rath CHON BURI: -- Video footage has emerged of a sickening attack on a security guard during Wan Lai celebrations in Bang Saen last week. And to make matters worse the guard who was attacked by about ten men is handicapped after suffering from polio. Guard Chartchai Songkhao, had initially tried to stop a man and a woman from urinating out front of some flats where he was on duty. He told them not to do that and an argument developed, reported Thai Rath . Soon a group of friends approached Chartchai to assault him. The CCTV footage showed him trying to get away before being repeatedly beaten with fists and feet. He also has objects thrown at him in the sustained attack that lasts about a minute. One man kicks him as he lies on the ground defenseless. The footage is now being shared across social media in an effort to track down the cowardly men who attacked the guard. Thai Rath discovered that the attack happened on the 17th of April and was reported to police the next day. So far there have been no arrests. But the Chonburi head of police Somprasong Yenthuam has visited the victim who is still in hospital and promised that the attackers would be brought to justice. Chartchai needed 14 stitches in a head wound and a further four stitches to a cut by his right eye. He told reporters that he only has limited use of one arm after suffering from polio. He was thus unable to offer much resistance to the attack. He said that he tried to stop the people from urinating fearing that his boss would scold him if he did not do his duty. Chief Somprasong has urged the Saen Suk police to solve the case. He said that it looks like the attackers were local men and it should not be difficult to find them. "I would urge these men to give themselves up - it will be better for you to do so," he said. "If anyone has information about these men they can contact us under conditions of anonymity", he added. Source: Thai Rath -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-04-25
  24. PM calls for nightclub age restrictions enforcement BANGKOK, 24 April 2017 (NNT) – The Prime Minister has called for a stricter enforcement of age restrictions at entertainment venues, preventing persons under 20 years of age from entering, in the wake of violations by many venue owners, says a spokesman. The Government Spokesman, Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd has disclosed that the Prime Minister had ordered police, military, and administration officials to strictly regulate entertainment venues to adhere to age restrictions, alcohol sale time, licences, and the prevention of narcotics use. The order was issued in the wake of reported violations at many venues. “The Prime Minister was informed that many clubs and bars allow children and youths to enter, which could affect their safety, as some venues are places for alcohol consumption which may lead to abuses and violence. “Recent searchs at DJ Zone and Vientiane clubs in Pathum Thani has shown the clubs allow persons younger than 20 years old to enter, and the two clubs have violated many laws by not having appropriate licenses, selling alcohol to children, opening beyond the allowed time, and being a hiding place for drugs,” the government spokesman said. He added the Prime Minister had ordered the authorities to ensure no officials are involved with any benefits some operators might offer, and to strictly enforce the law without tolerance of any violation of the law, and asking parents to keep their eyes on their children and advise them not to behave in improper ways. -- nnt 2017-04-24
  25. Netanyahu snubs German minister over plan to meet rights groups By Madeline Chambers and Jeffrey Heller REUTERS Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun BERLIN/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled talks on Tuesday with Germany's visiting foreign minister, snubbing Sigmar Gabriel over his decision to meet groups critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. The dispute threatened to widen a rift between Israel and Germany over the Palestinian issue. Berlin has been increasingly critical of the settlement policies of Netanyahu's right-wing government in occupied territory Palestinians seek for a state. "My policy is clear: Not to meet with diplomats who visit Israel and engage with organisations that slander Israeli soldiers and seek to have them put on trial as war criminals," Netanyahu said in Jerusalem late on Tuesday. He said he was leading Israel "through proud nationalist polices and not by bowing our heads and grovelling". But he emphasised that relations with Germany would remain strong and important. Gabriel told reporters the decision was "not nice" and caught him by surprise since he generally had an open relationship with Netanyahu, but added that it did not spell "the end of diplomatic ties between the two countries". "I regret it greatly. And, I'll say it openly, we cannot become a political football for Israeli domestic politics," he said. "But it's not a catastrophe. There will be another occasion to meet somewhere ... We have to let things cool off." On Monday, an Israeli official had said Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, would not see Gabriel if he went ahead with meeting the Israeli group "Breaking the Silence". The organisation, a frequent target of criticism by the Israeli government, collects testimony from Israeli veterans about the military's treatment of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Gabriel underscored the importance of Germany's ties to Israel during a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin: "You can absolutely be sure we are committed to the friendship, the partnership and the special relationship with Israel and nothing will change this." Gabriel told reporters he found it noteworthy that Rivlin repeatedly emphasised that Israel was a democratic country with a right to freedom of expression. CLOSE ALLY Germany regards itself as one of Israel's closest allies and the cooperation and trade links are extensive. However, the legacy of the Nazi-era Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed during World War Two, means relations are highly charged. Gabriel said it was normal to talk to civil society representatives in Israel, a view that drew expressions of support from Israeli opposition leaders. He said it would be unthinkable if Israeli politicians were not allowed to meet with critics of the German government. Breaking the Silence declined to comment on Netanyahu's decision to snub Gabriel, or on the details of its planned meeting with the German minister, which the Peace Now movement said it would also attend along with the B'Tselem rights group. Roderich Kiesewetter, a lawmaker from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, told Die Welt newspaper the Israeli leader had "made a mistake" in shunning Gabriel, "a good friend of Israel". B'Tselem issued a statement late on Tuesday and, although it did not give any details of the meeting with Gabriel, it was highly critical of Netanyahu and the Israeli government's policies and vowed to continue opposing them. "As long as it does not meet the minimum conditions of democracy, Israel cannot enjoy the privileges that go with being a ... member of the club of democratic countries," the statement said. In February, Netanyahu ordered a reprimand of the Belgian ambassador after Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel met with representatives of Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem during his visit to the region. Right-wing Israeli politicians accuse the groups of damaging Israel's reputation abroad and putting Israeli soldiers and officials at risk of prosecution. They dislike the fact that some NGOs receive funds from EU countries. Gabriel, a Social Democrat who has spoken publicly about his rift with his late father, a convinced Nazi, is visiting the Middle East to press for a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Germany in March cancelled an annual meeting of German and Israeli leaders planned for May amid rising frustration in Berlin with settlement activity in the West Bank. In 2016, Israel passed a law requiring non-government organisations that receive more than half their funding from foreign governments or bodies to provide details of their donations. The legislation was largely seen as targeting left-wing groups such as Breaking the Silence and B'tselem, and it drew international criticism. (Additional reporting by Luke Baker and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, Andrea Shalal in Berlin; editing by Mark Heinrich) -- © Copyright Reuters 2017-04-26