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Thailand’s king grants inmate royal pardon after paying respects to one of Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist relics.

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Source: Reuters

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn conducted final rituals on Friday in preparation for three days of ceremonies for his elaborate coronation, which will also be marked by the pardoning and release from jail of some prisoners.

The coronation, which takes place from Saturday to Monday, will be the first the country has seen in 69 years, since his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was crowned in 1950.

“Long live the king,” chanted a group of people dressed in yellow, an auspicious color in Thailand, as the king and his new queen walked on a red carpet to the Grand Palace, shielded from the hot afternoon sun by a big yellow umbrella.

The king lit auspicious candles at 4:19 p.m. (9:19 GMT), a time that court astrologers determined was propitious, as 80 Buddhist monks chanted.

Yellow is particularly significant as it is the color of Monday In Thai culture, which is steeped in astrology, the day the king was born, and also the color of the sun, which represents the monarch in the cosmos.

Thais have been urged to wear yellow until the end of July, the king’s birth month.

Earlier on Friday, a senior palace official transferred a golden plaque inscribed with the king’s official name and title, his horoscope and the royal seal from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha to the Grand Palace in preparation for Saturday’s events.

The three items, which were made in a three-hour ritual last week, will be presented to the king by the chief Brahmin, along with five royal regalia, the symbols of kingship in Thailand.

ROYAL PARDON

Ahead of the grand ceremonies, the king said he would grant royal pardons to some prisoners to “give them a chance to become good citizens”, according to the Royal Gazette.

The order, which will take effect on Saturday, listed many criteria of prisoners eligible for the pardon, including those with disabilities, chronic or terminal diseases, or those within a year of completing their sentence.

The king will also reduce sentences for some prisoners, including those imprisoned for life, and commute some death sentences to life.

It is not clear how many people will qualify for pardons, and the Department of Corrections said it would finalize a list of eligible prisoners, and release them or commute their sentences, within 120 days.

The order did not exclude foreigners, nor did it exclude prisoners convicted of insulting the monarchy, a crime known as lese-majeste, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a prominent student activist who was sentenced in 2017 to two and a half years in jail for sharing a Thai-language BBC profile of the king is expected to be released next week, his lawyer told Reuters.

Jatupat was the first person to be charged with royal insult after the king formally ascended the throne following the death of King Bhumibol.

His full jail term will be completed on June 19.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Iran faces sanction over uranium breach plan

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Source: Reuters

Iran said on Monday it would breach internationally agreed curbs on its stock of low-enriched uranium in 10 days — a move likely to worsen tensions with Washington — but it added European nations could still save a nuclear deal that sets those limits.

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In an indication of concern at Iran’s announcement, Germany urged Tehran to meet all its obligations under the 2015 accord. Britain said if Iran breached limits agreed under the deal then London would look at “all options”.

Close U.S. ally Israel, Iran’s arch foe, urged world powers to step up sanctions against Tehran swiftly should it exceed the enriched uranium limit.

U.S.-Iran tensions are growing following accusations by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration that Tehran last Thursday attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a vital oil shipping route. Iran denies having any role.

Iran’s Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, on Monday denied Tehran was behind the attacks and said if the Islamic Republic decided to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane it would do so publicly.

The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged U.S. forces to leave the region, state TV said.

In an announcement drawing signs of Western unease, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said “We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment (of uranium) and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit.”

“Iran’s reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate,” he told state TV, adding that “the move will be reversed once other parties fulfill their commitments.”

Tehran said in May it would reduce compliance with the nuclear pact it agreed with world powers in 2015, in protest at the United States’ decision to unilaterally pull out of the agreement and reimpose sanctions last year.

The deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

The accord requires Iran to curb its uranium enrichment capacity, capping Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 percent or its equivalent for 15 years.

A series of more intrusive U.N. inspections under the deal have verified that Iran has been meeting its commitments.

Urging European signatories to hasten efforts to salvage the accord, President Hassan Rouhani said its collapse would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

“It’s a crucial moment, and France can still work with other signatories of the deal and play an historic role to save the deal in this very short time,” Rouhani was quoted as saying during a meeting with France’s new ambassador in Iran.


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24 Hours Across Africa

China backs Hong kong leader

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Source: Reuters

China doubled down on its support for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday after days of protests in the Chinese-ruled city over a planned extradition bill, and a source close to Lam said Beijing was unlikely to let her go even if she tried to resign.

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Lam’s attempts to pass a bill that would allow people in Hong Kong to be extradited to China to stand trial triggered the biggest and most violent protests in the former British colony in decades.

As the political crisis entered its second week, demonstrators and opposition politicians braved intermittent rain to gather near the government’s offices and call for the bill to be killed and for her to step down.

The upheaval comes at a delicate time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is grappling with a deepening U.S. trade war, an ebbing economy and regional strategic tension.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula since its return to Beijing in 1997, allowing freedoms not granted to the mainland, including an independent judiciary, but short of a fully democratic vote.

Many residents are increasingly unnerved by Beijing’s tightening grip and what they see as the erosion of those freedoms, fearing that changes to the rule of law could imperil its status as a global financial center.

“The Chinese government, the central government, has always fully affirmed the work of chief executive Carrie Lam and the Hong Kong government,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a news conference.

The comments echoed remarks over the weekend from the government’s Hong Kong and Macau policy office.

“The central government will continue to firmly support the chief executive and the SAR government’s governing in accordance with the law,” he said, referring to the “special administrative region” of China.


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