Month in brief

NZ to tighten gun laws

New Zealand’s premierJacinda Ardern announced thatthe country’s gun laws will be reformed after theMarch 15 attack on two mosques in Christchurch that left 50 people dead and many more wounded.Police say killerBrenton Tarrant, a self-described white supremacist, used military-style assault weapons modified to make them more deadly, which islegal under the country’s current legislation.Previous attempts to tighten gun laws have failed due to a powerful gun lobby and New Zealand’s culture of hunting.

B-737 Max 8 grounded

Following Ethiopian Airlines’ grounding of its Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet after the March 10 ET302 crashthat killed all 157 on board, several Asian countries were among the first to suspend use of the plane. China grounded its entire domestic fleet, while Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea,Singapore and India temporarily stopped using the plane after the Ethiopia tragedy – the second fatal crash of the model since October last year.TThe US aviation regulator initially stood by the American-made plane but has since withdrawn its backing.

By the book

Thailand’s prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief who seized power in a 2014 coup, has bowed out of campaigning directly for the country’s March 24 election for fear of violating election laws. Nominated by the Phalang Pracharat Party as its sole candidate for premier, Mr Prayut wants to return after the polls as a civilian prime minister. His appearance and statements in a campaign could potentially breach election laws, as he is both prime minister and the chief junta leader.

Nirav Modi arrested

Fugitive Indian billionaire Nirav Modihas been arrested in the UK.A diamond merchant whose jewellery was worn by celebrities including actress Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Modi – who vanished from India in early 2018–is wantedfor his alleged role in the country’s largest bank fraud, totalling some $2bn (£1.5bn). His arrest in London was made on behalf of the Indian authorities, who have asked for his extradition.A successful repatriationcould boost the ruling BJP’s standing in the polls in the run-up to India’s elections.

Jail for Facebook insult

A 22-year-old Malaysian man has received a ten-year prison sentence for insulting Islam on his Facebook page. The man, identified as ‘Ayea Yea’, pleaded guilty to ten charges in a Kuala Lumpur court.The Royal Malaysia Police also arraigned three other social media account owners for insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. Charges against all four were made on the grounds of ‘prejudicing the maintenance of harmony on the grounds of religion’, ‘publishing any statement to incite a community’ and ‘improper use of network services’.

Cook Islands ponders name change

Proposals are being made in the South Pacific Cook Islands to change the nation’s nameto reflect its Polynesian heritage. It was named after British explorer James Cook, who landed on the islands in the 1700s; but a committee made up of local historians and people with traditional knowledge is considering 60 replacements in Cook Islands Maori, including Rangiaroa (meaning Love from the Heavens) and Raroatua, which translates as We Stand Under God. Voters opted against a name change in a 1994 referendum.

Doomed by the dam?

The world’s most endangered orangutans could be put ‘on a firm path to extinction’, say scientists, after an Indonesian court approved a controversial dam project.The 22 trillion rupiah (£1.15bn) hydropower dam is to be constructed by Chinese state-owned firm Sinohydro in the heart of North Sumatra’s Batang Toru rainforest, home to the Tapanuli orangutans, which were only identified as a new species in 2017.There are only 800 of the apes remaining in the wild and they all live in this ecosystem.

Japanese record

Guinness World Records has named a Japanese woman the world’s oldest living person at the age of 116 years and 66 days.Kane Tanaka, who was born on January 2, 1903, still enjoys studying mathematics and playing the board game Othello. Surrounded by her family, she was presented with a certificate of her title on March 9 at the nursing home where she now lives in the south-western city of Fukuoka.The title passed to Mrs Tanaka after another Japanese woman, Chiyo Miyako, died on July 22 last year,aged 117.

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