Month in Brief

North Korean leader’s brother killed

Kim Jong-nam, estranged elder half-brother of North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un died after two women wiped his face with a toxic substance at Kuala Lumpur airport. Malaysian police arrested the women and named several North Koreans in connection with the case, including a second secretary at the embassy in Malaysia. Kim Jong-nam had lived in exile since 2001 after falling out with his father, Kim Jong-il, who then chose his youngest son to succeed him.

UN condemns attacks on Rohingyas

Myanmar’s security forces were accused by the United Nations of ‘devastating cruelty’ against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, further increasing pressure on the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to act against human rights abuses. The UN report said mass killings and gangrapes could amount to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Officials later said a four-month military ‘clearance operation’, which began after nine policemen were killed in October, had ended.


Warships salvaged for scrap

Warships and cargo vessels sunk in Malaysian and Indonesian waters during the Second World War have been illegally salvaged for scrap. The wrecks, in which thousands of crew members died, are treated as war graves, but a survey preparing for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Java Sea found that seven naval vessels had disappeared. Three Japanese cargo ships were also plundered off Malaysia.




Pacific islanders ban junk food

A group of islands in the south Pacific, a region with the worst obesity problem in the world, is banning imported food in favour of an entirely local organic diet.A community leader in Vanuatu’s Torba province said that instead of imported rice, sweets, tinned fish and biscuits, the 10,000 inhabitants could live on local fish, taro, yams and pineapple, adding: ‘We don’t want to develop the illnesses that come with a western junk food diet.’


India in record satellite launch

India launched 104 satellites into orbit from a single rocket, nearly tripling the previous record for satellite launches in a single day, held by Russia with 37 satellites. The launch, which received worldwide coverage, highlighted India’s potential as a low-cost competitor in the satellite market. In 2014 the country successfully sent a spacecraft into orbit around Mars for only $74 million, in contrast to a US mission which cost $671 million, and a failed Chinese attempt.


China criticised at Vatican gathering

A Vatican conference on human organ trafficking condemned the trade as a ‘crime against humanity’, but many participants criticised the attendance of China’s most senior transplant official. Beijing, under fire for ‘harvesting’ organs from executed prisoners, claims the practice was halted at the beginning of 2015, but experts remain sceptical. Pope Francis has described organ trafficking as ‘a form of slavery’.


Toshiba chairman quits over losses

Shigenori Shiga, chairman of Japan’s Toshiba conglomerate, resigned after delayed annual results revealed a net loss of $3.4 billion, caused by a $6.3 billion writedown at its US nuclear business. With some fearing that Toshiba’s future could be at risk, the news cast doubt on its participation in a project to build a new nuclear power station at Moorside in north-west England.



Scoffing at scarves

Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, led a 15-member officialdelegation to Iran, 11 of whom were women, but female members of the Iranian government were absent from a meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. While this drew complaints from some Iranian women, Swedes criticised female representatives of a government which calls itself ‘feminist’ for wearing headscarves during the Iran trip.

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