FBI 'most wanted' alleged sex abuser arrested
June 19th, 2013
03:13 AM ET

FBI 'most wanted' alleged sex abuser arrested

Mexican authorities have arrested a former college professor who was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list over allegations of child sex abuse.

Walter Lee Williams was detained late Tuesday, Mexican state news agency Notimex reported.

The FBI placed the former university professor wanted for alleged sexual exploitation of children on the list Monday, according to Notimex.

Williams researched in the field of gender development at a university in California, which gave him easy access to his victims, mainly teenage boys in developing countries, the FBI said.

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Filed under: California • Child safety • Crime • FBI • Indonesia • Justice • Mexico • Peru • Thailand • U.S. • Uncategorized • World • World Update
February 13th, 2013
03:13 AM ET

Thai forces thwart attack on military base, killing 16 insurgents

Sixteen insurgents were killed during a fierce battle after they attacked a military base in a restive area of southern Thailand early Wednesday, authorities said.

Thai military officials said 50 to 60 heavily armed attackers tried to storm the navy base in the province of Narathiwat under cover of darkness, but navy personnel had been forewarned and fought the insurgents off in an intense, hour-long firefight.

It appeared to be the latest flare-up in a worsening conflict between government forces and Muslim separatists in southern Thailand in which more than 5,000 people are believed to have been killed since 2004.

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Thai court sentences activist to 10 years in prison for insulting king
January 23rd, 2013
03:43 AM ET

Thai court sentences activist to 10 years in prison for insulting king

A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced a political activist to 10 years in prison for insulting the country's revered king, a decision that drew criticism from human rights groups and the European Union.

The Criminal Court in Bangkok ruled that Somyot Pruksakasemsuk had breached Thailand's strict lese majeste laws when a newspaper he edited, Voice of Thaksin, published two satirical articles that were found to be critical of the monarchy.

Somyot plans to appeal the court's decision, according to his lawyer, Karom Polpornklang.

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Filed under: Thailand
July 11th, 2012
01:07 AM ET

Thai-American jailed for insulting monarchy receives royal pardon

Thailand has pardoned a Thai-born American who was sentenced last year to 2 1/2 years in prison for insulting the monarchy, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Joe W. Gordon, whose Thai name is Lerpong Wichaicommart, was released Tuesday after receiving a royal pardon from the king, his lawyer said.

Gordon's case is one of several that provoked criticism from human rights advocates over Thailand's controversial laws that punish defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family. U.S. authorities had also expressed concern about his imprisonment.

The charge of writing and posting articles insulting the monarchy under the Southeast Asian country's lese majeste laws can yield a sentence as high as 20 years in prison in the Buddhist country, where the king is highly revered.

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Malaysian court: Iranian can be extradited to Thailand over Bangkok blasts
Bangkok bombs crime scene on Wednesday, February 22, 2012.
June 25th, 2012
04:16 AM ET

Malaysian court: Iranian can be extradited to Thailand over Bangkok blasts

A Malaysian court has ruled that an Iranian man suspected of being involved with a series of bombs that went off in Bangkok in February can be extradited to Thailand.

Masoud Sedaghatzadeh is wanted by the Thai authorities for his alleged involvement in the Bangkok blasts along with several other Iranians.

It is not yet clear when Sedaghatzadeh will be extradited, as he plans to file an application to a higher court in Malaysia, seeking his release from prison.

The explosions in Bangkok did not cause any deaths, but the Thai authorities have said they were intended for Israeli diplomats. The devices used explosive materials that are not available in Thailand and were most likely smuggled in, the police have said.

The Bangkok blasts came a day after a device attached to an Israeli Embassy van in New Delhi exploded, and another device, found on an embassy car in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, was safety detonated.

Israeli officials blamed Iran for the attacks, but Tehran has denied the accusations.

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Filed under: Iran • Israel • Malaysia • Terrorism • Thailand
April 5th, 2012
12:33 AM ET

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout faces long prison sentence

The convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout faces the possibility of life in prison at his sentencing in a federal court in New York on Thursday.

Last year, Bout, who's been dubbed "the merchant of death" by his accusers, was convicted on four counts of conspiracy to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles and provide material support to a terrorist organization.

At the trial, the prosecution said that during a 2008 sting operation by U.S. drug enforcement agents in Thailand, Bout believed he was selling weapons to Colombian guerrillas.

Bout, whose life is considered to have inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage movie "Lord of War," faces 25 years to life in prison.

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Terrorism suspect leads Thai police to potential bomb materials
Foreign tourists are transported by tuk-tuks to visit a Buddhist temple in Bangkok.
January 16th, 2012
03:46 AM ET

Terrorism suspect leads Thai police to potential bomb materials

The Thai government said Monday that it had found the basic ingredients for explosive devices in a building in central Thailand, just days after the United States and Israel warned their citizens in Bangkok of the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack.

A team of bomb experts and forensic police officers "found initial chemical materials that could produce bombs" in Samutsakorn, southwest of Bangkok, said Thitima Chaisaeng, a spokeswoman for the Thai government.

The team was led to the location by a Lebanese terror suspect who is accused of trying to attack spots in Bangkok that are popular with Western tourists, Thitima said.

The Thai government said the terror suspect is believed to belong to Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim group active in Lebanon that the United States views as a terrorist organization.

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January 12th, 2012
03:08 AM ET

Thai panel calls for overhaul of law forbidding royal insults

A Thai advisory panel has recommended an overhaul of the country's law that stipulates heavy sentences for insulting the royal family, according to a letter addressed to the prime minister seen Thursday by CNN.

The independent Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand said in the letter that the punishments should be less severe and "based more on popular sentiment." The commission has no power itself to change the law, but its views are respected in Thailand.

International groups like Human Rights Watch have repeatedly criticized Thailand's tough laws against defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family.

Last month, a Thai criminal court sentenced a Thai-born American to 2 1/2 years in prison for insulting the monarchy. The U.S. government said it was "troubled" by the case and criticized the sentence as too harsh.

The recent letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was dated December 30, but it was sent to CNN and other international news organizations Thursday.

In it, the commission supported the view of human rights organizations who say the lese-majeste law has been misused for political reasons.

The law should be changed, the letter said, otherwise "it may continue to be used as a political tool and will therefore obstruct reconciliation between people in our country."

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December 8th, 2011
12:56 AM ET

American gets 2.5 years for insulting Thai monarchy

A Thai criminal court has sentenced a Thai-born American to two and a half years in prison for insulting the monarchy.

The charge of writing and posting articles insulting the monarchy can yield a sentence as high as 20 years in prison in the Buddhist country, where the king is highly revered.

But Joe W. Gordon, whose Thai name is Lerpong Wichaicommart, cooperated during the investigation and pleaded guilty, resulting in the lenient sentence, his lawyer said.

The lawyer, Anon Rumpa, said he plans to file for a royal pardon.

King Bhumibol Adulydej has pardoned foreigners in similar cases in the past.

Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Gordon said he was "an American, not a Thai citizen."

An "American has rights and freedom to comment. In Thailand, there is limitation in expressing opinion," he said.

Gordon, 54, returned to Thailand last year after 30 years in the United States. He was arrested in May for posting a link on his blog to an unauthorized biography of the king, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.

He had been detained without bail since then.

Thailand's lese majeste laws are among the toughest in the world, stipulating punishment for anyone defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family.

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November 6th, 2011
04:10 AM ET

Death toll in Thailand flood reach 506

The death toll from Thailand's worst flooding in half a century reached 506 Sunday, as flood waters inched toward downtown Bangkok, the interior ministry said.

By Sunday, authorities ordered evacuations for residents in eight of Bangkok's 50 disctricts.

Across the country, the flooding - now in its third month - has affected 25 of Thailand's 64 provinces.

Bangkok's central business district is still dry but other parts of the bustling metropolis of 12 million people are inundated.

Floods are an annual occurrence in the country but it has been particularly acute this year.

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Filed under: Flooding • Thailand • Weather • World
October 27th, 2011
09:49 AM ET

Bangkok residents flee rising floodwaters

Thursday was the first of five government-declared holidays in Thailand, but it was not a day of fun. Floodwaters crept slowly but surely into Bangkok, stressing embankments and making roads, parking lots, factories and markets more suitable for fish than people.

Bangkok residents used the holiday to stream out of the capital, seeking higher ground or temporary shelters. Many saw floodwater enter their homes uninvited, their belongings soaked beyond salvage.

Most of Bangkok was expected to be flooded Thursday, with up to 1 meter (3.2 feet) of water in some areas, said Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as the Chao Phraya River threatened to spill over holding walls and into the city of almost 10 million people.

Several districts were under a mandatory evacuation order.

Yingluck conceded Bangkok is entering a critical stage, the MCOT news agency reported. She said it was impossible to divert the floodwater and that it would certainly flow through every part of the metropolitan area.

"There is water from underground coming up," said Pracha Promnok, chief of the Flood Relief Operations Center. "We are unable to do anything (to stop it)."

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October 24th, 2011
02:21 AM ET

Floods reach Bangkok airport, force evacuations

Floodwaters in Bangkok have reached Don Muang Airport, one of the Thai capital's two main airports and home to the flood relief operation command, which may have to move to another location, according to the governor.

In addition to Don Muang, residents in five other areas should prepare for floods, move their belongings to upper floors and take shelter at evacuation centers, Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said in a news conference on Monday.

Thammasat University's gymnasium, which has been used as an evacuation center, is also flooded and without electricity and is itself being evacuated, the governor added.

As a remedy, about 4,000 people will be bused to Rajamangala Stadium in central Bangkok with the help of 300-400 volunteers, according to the governor.

In the east, the industrial estates of Lat Krabang and Bang Chan remained under threat, and volunteers were sought for help with sandbagging.

The governor urged the public not to panic and to follow his reports closely.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said authorities were trying to control the water levels by using all the dams and dikes to cope with an unusually heavy rainy season.

Protecting Bangkok was a priority because it comprises the economic heart of Thailand, she said. "But it doesn't mean we have no concern for the people who are suffering from the flooding," she added.

The decision to divert water through canals in Bangkok means parts of the city and its surrounding suburbs, such as Rangsit, are flooded.

Residents have resorted to moving out of flooded homes by boat or anything that could float - or wading through water with plastic bags of belongings balanced on their heads or pets tucked into clothes.

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Filed under: Flooding • Thailand • Weather • World
October 21st, 2011
02:02 AM ET

Thailand to open flood gates to save capital

Thailand's prime minister asked all Bangkok residents to move their belongings to higher ground as government workers fought to contain flooding inching toward the capital city.

Government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng said the move is a precautionary measure.

"We think that a state of emergency is not necessary at this moment," she said.

To protect their cars, residents double parked along elevated highways, making it nearly impossible to navigate around a city where traffic is congested on a normal day.

As water from Thailand's worst flood in half a century bore down on the capital, officials changed course.

Until now, they had hoped that strengthening flood barriers and widening canals would keep populated areas safe.

But now the government is trying a different tack: opening floodgates to relieve pressure on dams and levees and send the water toward the sea.

The decision to divert water through canals in Bangkok means parts of the city will likely be flooded.

On Friday, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said officials were considering which areas to let the water flow through to minimize impact on the populace.

They hope the water will not overflow the canals and spill into the streets, bringing the kind of misery to the capital city that its northern suburbs have seen.

As a precaution, the Thai Army was bringing in 100 boats to help those trapped in their houses.

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Filed under: Flooding • Thailand • Weather • World
October 19th, 2011
07:30 AM ET

More than 700 dead as flooding hits southeast Asian countries

At least 745 people have died in flooding in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines since July, the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific said.

Thailand has been hit the hardest, with 315 people killed in that time frame, officials said.

Monsoon rains across Thailand have affected millions of people in 61 of its provinces, the country's Flood Relief Operation Command reported.

Cambodia, meanwhile, reported 247 dead since July.

– CNN's Kocha Olarn contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Cambodia • Flooding • Laos • Philippines • Thailand • Vietnam • Weather
October 17th, 2011
01:25 AM ET

Thai capital escapes worst of flooding

Thai authorities on Monday moved to ease fears that the devastating floods that have engulfed much of the country will swamp the capital.

The country's Flood Relief Operation Command (FROC) reported that flood defense measures in low-lying Bangkok have held and that the bloated Chao Praya River has not risen any further.

There had been fears that further heavy rain over the weekend combined with the spring high tides would overwhelm parts of the city.

"The water situation in Bangkok city is no longer a worry and today is the end of the high tide period," FROC spokesperson Wim Rungwattanachinda told CNN.

However, Irrigation department director general Chalit Damrongsak warned the situation remained critical as water from low-lying areas north of Bangkok still needed to drain.

"It is not over," he said, in quotes carried by Agence France-Presse.

So far, 297 people have been killed during months of monsoon rains across Thailand, with more than 8.5 million in 61 provinces affected by the rising floodwater.

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Filed under: Flooding • Thailand • Weather • World
October 16th, 2011
01:15 AM ET

Death toll from 2 months of lashing rain rises to 297 in Thailand

The death toll from the worst floods in half a century to hit Thailand continues to rise.

By early Sunday morning, the number stood at 297 from two months of lashing rain, with more than 8.5 million in 61 provinces affected by the rising waters, authorities said.

More rain was predicted for Sunday in some provinces and in the capital city, Bangkok.

In the ancient city of Ayutthara, one of the worst-hit regions, military trucks moved slowly down the main street, cutting through a constant river of water, passing out aid to those who can get close.

Anyone with a boat used it to transport aid or to help neighbors carry their possessions from flooded houses. Others used rubber tires of slabs of Styrofoam.

In Bangkok, crews worked feverishly, widening canals and strengthening flood barriers to protect the city.

"I have to say here that there is a lot of water coming to Bangkok but the situation not critical yet," said Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra.

The Bangkok suburb of Sam Kok is sandwiched between the overflowing Chao Phraya River and the 2.5-meter floodwalls that are so far successfully protecting the inner and commercial part of the capital. The water here has nowhere to go and levels are rising fast.

"In one or two days (flood waters) will pass through Bangkok, but the fact is that the impact of such flow would be less if the water was allowed to pass through, rather than concentrated in one area," the Flood Relief Operations Command said Sunday.

Floods are an annual occurrence in the country but it has been particularly acute this year.

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Filed under: Flooding • Thailand • Weather • World
October 11th, 2011
05:20 AM ET

Thai capital braces for flood disaster

Thailand's capital was braced for unprecedented flooding Tuesday, amid the monsoon rains that have overwhelmed much of the country and neighboring Cambodia in recent weeks.

So far 269 people have been killed in Thailand, according to the country's Flood Relief Operations Command. Some 60 of the country's 76 provinces have so far been affected, impacting some eight million people.

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On the Radar: Possible N. Korea defectors, Minnesota fire, Thailand floods
A Japanese patrol craft tows a boat that allegedly carried nine North Koreans to Japanese waters.
September 14th, 2011
05:40 AM ET

On the Radar: Possible N. Korea defectors, Minnesota fire, Thailand floods

Three things you need to know today.

North Korea defectors: Nine possible North Korean defectors who sailed to Japan were moved to a refugee facility in the southern part of the country Wednesday afternoon, according to government officials.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujiwara said the nine people would be temporarily held at an immigration facility. Earlier in the day, Fujiwara disputed local reports that they would be sent to South Korea.

The small wooden boat carrying nine men, women and children onboard claiming they were from North Korea was spotted off Japan's western coast Tuesday morning.

A fisherman saw the boat drifting about 25 kilometers (15 miles) off the coast of Noto peninsula of Ishikawa prefecture and reported it to authorities.

It is rare for North Korean defectors to sail to Japan's coast. According to coast guard records, there have been only two other cases.

Minnesota fire: A wildfire in a northeast Minnesota woodland grew by nearly tenfold Tuesday, giving off a pall of smoke that stretched from the Canadian border to southern Wisconsin.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called in National Guard helicopters to assist firefighters as the Pagami Creek fire, in the remote Superior National Forest, spread from about 11,000 acres on Monday to more than 100,000 by Tuesday afternoon, said Doug Anderson, a spokesman for the firefighting effort.

The blaze started in mid-August after a lightning strike, but jumped about 16 miles eastward on Monday - "unprecedented for northern Minnesota," said Lisa Radosevich-Craig, another spokeswoman for the fire command.

No injuries were reported and no buildings had been destroyed, but 36 homes in the nearby community of Isabella were evacuated as a precaution, she said.

Thailand floods: Heavy rains  and flooding have killed at least 87 people in Thailand in recent months, local authorities said.

The deaths occurred between July 29 and September 12, according to the Interior Ministry.

Flooding is still affecting 16 provinces, with Phichit   in the north among the hardest-hit.

Twenty-three people died in  Phichit province, mostly from drowning, according to officials.

World's aircraft carrier club now includes China
The USS John C. Stennis is a Nimitz-class carrier, one of 10 in the U.S. Navy fleet.
August 15th, 2011
01:31 PM ET

World's aircraft carrier club now includes China

With China’s first aircraft carrier completing sea trials this week, we thought it would be good to look at other countries that operate aircraft carriers.

Aircraft carriers give nations so-called blue water navies, with the ability to project military power far from their nation's shores. The carriers often are good neighbors, too, as essential platforms for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

Brazil: The Brazilian navy operates the Sao Paulo, a French Clemenceau-class light aircraft carrier it acquired from France in 2000. The Sao Paulo can carry up to 40 aircraft and operates with a mix of A-4 jets and helicopters. It was originally commissioned in France in 1963.

France: The French navy operates the Charles de Gaulle, a nuclear-powered light aircraft carrier. The de Gaulle can carry 35 to 40 aircraft and about 2,000 personnel. It entered service in 2001. Most recently the de Gaulle has been supporting NATO operations over Libya.

India: The Indian navy operates the INS Viraat, formerly the British carrier HMS Hermes, which it acquired in 1987. Viraat is a vertical short takeoff and landing carrier with displacement of almost 29,000 tons. It can carry up to 12 fighter aircraft and nine helicopters.

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Thai PM concedes, congratulates first female premier
Yingluck Shinawatra, the opposition Puea Thai party candidate.
July 3rd, 2011
10:00 AM ET

Thai PM concedes, congratulates first female premier

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva conceded Sunday that Yingluck Shinawatra had won the nation's election.

"Congratulations to Thailand's first female prime minister," he said.

Early exit polling in Thailand showed Yingluck of the Pheu Thai party with a wide lead over Abhisit of the Democratic Party.

Polling also showed Yingluck's party may take more than 300 of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives up for grabs in the election, according to data collected by the Suan Dusit Poll. It would be one of the few times in recent decades that a party won a majority, allowing it to form its own administration without having to build a coalition.

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