Month in brief

Trump changes course on Afghanistan

Reversing his stance during his election campaign, Donald Trump announced that the US would increase the number of troops stationed in Afghanistan, and called on America’s allies to follow suit. Though he did not give numbers, about 4,000 more soldiers are expected to join the 8,500 already in the country.

The president, who called Afghanistan a ‘total disaster’ when he was a candidate, said his initial instinct had been to pull out. He emphasised that the US would not engage in ‘nation-building’; its troops were there to fight terrorists. In his speech, Trump said pressure would be put on Pakistan to deny terrorists a safe haven, while India would give more economic and development support to Kabul.

While the Afghan government welcomed his announcement, critics noted the absence of any diplomatic effort to resolve the conflict, and said Trump was not sending enough troops to make a decisive difference in what is already America’s longest war.

South Asia hit by floods

Floods across south Asia claimed over1,200 lives and affected 41 million people, ravaging crops and devastating communities in India, Nepal and Bangladesh as aid organisations warned of food shortages and disease. Bangladesh suffered worst in the floods, believed to be the most severe in 100 years, with over a third of the country underwater. ‘I could not find a single dry patch of land,’ said aninternational aid official who flew over Bangladesh.

 

Thai ex-PM flees country

A Thai court issued an arrest warrant for former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra after she failed to appear. The country’s first female PM, ousted by the military in 2014, faced 10 years in prison on criminal charges over a rice subsidy policy that cost taxpayers an estimated $15 billion. Supporters said she had fled to Dubai, and could seek asylum in Britain.

Samsung heir jailed

Lee Jae-yong, heir to Samsung, South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, was sentenced to five years in prison for corruption in a scandal that saw the downfall of former presidentPark Geun-hye. Lee has been de facto head of Samsung since his father suffered a heart attack. He plans to appeal, but Park’s successor, Moon Jae-in, said there would be no presidential pardon, as has happened in the past, if the sentence is upheld.

 

India bansinstant divorce

India’s highest court ruledthe practice of ‘talaq’ – instant divorce –  unconstitutional. In a 3-2 majority verdict, the Supreme Court called the custom ‘un-Islamic’, following cases filed by five Muslim women divorced through the practice, and two rights groups. India is one of only a few countries where a Muslim man can divorce his wife simply by uttering the word ‘talaq’ (‘divorce’ in Arabic) three times.

Pear-pinching

Thieves, attracted by rising world prices, staged commercial-scale raids on New Zealand avocado orchards before selling the stolen fruit on Facebook to evade capture by the police. The pear pinchers, if caught, could face up to 10 years in prison for burglary. Store owners were warned that if they knowingly accepted stolen fruit, they too could be jailed.

Hospital admits bear as patient

Patients at a hospital in northern Vietnam were astonished when a new inmate arrived – a 150kg moon bear with a limp. Carers took the bear, Quang Yen, to Animals Asia’sVietnam Bear Rescue Centreafter spotting he was struggling to walk. When his condition failed to improve, staff at a local hospital stepped in.X-rays revealed the bear was suffering from severe arthritis. He is now recovering.

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