Month in Brief

Dalit elected India’s president

Ram Nath Kovind, 71, became India’s second Dalit president after Kocheril Raman Narayanan (1997-2002). The Bihar governor, nominated by the ruling BJP-led coalition, easily beat the Congress-led opposition’s Meira Kumar, also a Dalit. Long associated with the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),Kovind is considered to have been selected to improve the BJP’s appeal to lower-caste voters. Analysts said his election had reinforced Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grip on power.

Thai crackdown on human trafficking

A court in Thailand sentenced Manas Kongpan, a former army general, to 27 years, among 62 accused found guilty of people trafficking and murder in a case involving Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladeshis who had paid to be smuggled into Thailand. Instead of finding work they were held hostage until their relatives bought their freedom. A scandal erupted after a mass grave was found at a jungle camp in 2015.

Islamic State leader in Afghanistankilled

Abu Sayed, leader of the Afghan branch of Islamic State, was killed by a US air strikeat the group’s headquarters in Kunar province, according to the Pentagon. He was the third IS leader in Afghanistan reported killed by the US and its allies within 12 months, after the deaths of Hafiz Sayed Khan in late July 2016, and Abdul Hasib in late April this year.

North Korean defector returns

Lim Ji-hyun, who fled to South Korea in 2014 and became a popular TV personality, reappeared in a propaganda video in North Korea. She said she was lured away and forced to slander the North, and claimed she returned voluntarily, partly because she was lonely and missed her parents. There was speculation that she had been abducted from the China-North Korea border area while seeking to smuggle out relatives.

UN accuses Sri Lanka of ‘routine’ torture

Torture remains ‘endemic and routine’ in Sri Lankafor peopleheld on national security grounds, Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said after a visit. Torture continued as recently as late last year, despite the new government promising to end it, said the British QC. A ‘staggering’ 70 people had been detained for more than five years without trial, with 12 for more than 10 years, which he called ‘a stain on Sri Lanka’s international reputation’.

Japanese nuclear executives on trial

Three Japanese former power company executives went on trial, charged with professional negligence linked to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The 2011 meltdown,the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, was triggered by an earthquake which caused a massive tsunami, leaving over 18,000 people dead. The former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and vice-presidents Sakae Muto, 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71, all pleaded not guilty.

Dig rewrites Australian history

Archaeologists excavating a rock shelter in the Northern Territory found evidence, including the world’s oldest stone axes, suggesting that Aboriginal people have been in Australia for at least 65,000 years,up to 18,000 years earlier than previously thought.Australian Aborigines werealready believed to be the world’s oldest continuous civilisation. Also found at the Madjedbebe shelter, near Kakadu National Park, were ochre crayons, thought to have been used for art.

Elephant rescued 10 miles from land

The Sri Lankan navy rescued a wild elephant after it was found about 10 miles off the north-east coast. The animal was caught in a current while crossing a lagoon near the town of Kokkilai and dragged into the ocean. In a 12-hour rescue, divers and wildlife officials tied ropes to the distressed elephant and towed it back to shallow waters near the coast, where it was released.

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