In today’s bulletin: Thai PM won’t resign, protesters defy ban again; Trump, Biden clash over coronavirus in split-screen town halls; M’sia PM in dilemma as Umno demands Cabinet reshuffle; Chinese police probe halts withdrawals at cryptoexchange OKEx; Japan to release treated Fukushima radioactive water into sea, and more.
Reading this on the web or know someone who might enjoy receiving Asian Insider? Our sign-up page is here.
THAI PM PRAYUT WON’T RESIGN AS PROTESTERS DEFY BAN AGAIN WITH RALLY
Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters chanted “Down with Dictatorship” under pouring rain in Bangkok on Friday (Oct 16), defying a government ban on demonstrations for a second day and in spite of a warning from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The location of the demonstration was shifted at short notice by about 1.6km after police deployed in force at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, where tens of thousands of protesters rallied on Thursday.
Protesters are calling for a reduction in the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy as well as the removal of Mr Prayut, who told reporters after an emergency Cabinet meeting that he was not quitting.
TRUMP, BIDEN CLASH OVER CORONAVIRUS IN SPLIT-SCREEN TOWN HALLS
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden held competing town halls at the same time on Thursday night via different TV networks, attacking each other over issues ranging from the pandemic response, the QAnon conspiracy theory to the Supreme Court expanding.
The simultaneous town halls broadcast in split-screen format by the TV networks offered a stark reminder of the many ways the campaign season has been changed by a pandemic that has prompted more than 18 million people to cast ballots more than two weeks before Election Day on Nov 3.
M’SIA PM MUHYIDDIN IN DILEMMA AS UMNO DEMANDS CABINET RESHUFFLE
Umno’s leadership has demanded a Cabinet reshuffle that adheres to the official hierarchy in Malaysia’s largest ruling party, putting embattled PM Muhyiddin Yassin into a quandary over whether to accede to the ultimatum that would mean appointing ministers with graft cases hanging over their heads.
Emissaries, including Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan, presented their case to the premier on Wednesday (Oct 14), after the party’s political bureau chaired by president Zahid Hamidi decided it would set new conditions in exchange for its continued support for the Perikatan Nasional government, Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh reports.
It would mean dropping up to four ministers from Umno allied to Tan Sri Muhyiddin who are not in the once-dominant Malay party’s supreme council, and instead installing leaders – including Mr Zahid and Mr Ahmad – who are facing corruption charges or implicated in ongoing graft trials.
CHINESE POLICE INVESTIGATION HALTS WITHDRAWALS AT CRYPTOEXCHANGE OKEX
Chinese police have launched an investigation linked to cryptocurrency exchange giant OKEx, forcing one of the world’s largest Bitcoin trading platforms to block users globally from withdrawing money.
OKEx, founded by tech entrepreneur Star Xu, is one of the most active cryptocurrency spot and derivatives trading platforms, alongside the likes of Binance and Huobi.
JAPAN TO RELEASE TREATED FUKUSHIMA RADIOACTIVE WATER INTO SEA
Japan will release more than a million tonnes of treated water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea in a decades-long operation, despite strong opposition from local fishermen.
The release of the water, which has been filtered to reduce radioactivity, is likely to start in 2022 at the earliest.
IN OTHER NEWS
AIRFARES JUMP AFTER S’PORE-HK TRAVEL BUBBLE ANNOUNCEMENT: The cost of air tickets between Singapore and Hong Kong jumped within 24 hours of the two places unveiling plans for a travel bubble that would not require people to quarantine upon arrival. The cheapest price for a Singapore Airlines return economy seat to Hong Kong was $558 on Friday morning (Oct 16) up until the end of December, versus around $400 on Thursday afternoon.
CHINA WARNS CANADA AGAINST GRANTING HONG KONGERS SANCTUARY: A top Chinese diplomat warned Canada on Thursday (Oct 15) against granting asylum to Hong Kong democracy protesters, adding that doing so could jeopardise the “health and safety” of Canadians living in the southern Chinese financial hub. The remarks by Mr Cong Peiwu, Beijing’s Ottawa envoy, prompted a rebuke from Canada’s Foreign Minister, further escalating tensions between the two countries.
INDONESIA’S DEFENCE MINISTRY DOWNPLAYS CRITICISMS OVER PRABOWO’S VISIT TO THE US: Indonesia’s Defence Ministry has played down criticism by activists who raised concerns over its minister Prabowo Subianto’s past alleged human rights violations and objected his working visit to the US. The ministry’s spokesman, Mr Dahnil Azhar Simanjuntak, said it respected those who criticised Mr Prabowo’s diplomatic visit.