Asia Briefs: HK student leader pleads not guilty

HK student leader pleads not guilty

HONG KONG • Pro-democracy student leader Joshua Wong yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges of inciting unlawful assembly over protests last year that triggered more than two months of paralysing street rallies in the city.

The teenage face of the "Umbrella Movement" was charged along with fellow student leaders Nathan Law and Alex Chow last week, almost a year after the protest.

The months-long protest starting in late September last year called for free elections for the semi-autonomous city's next leader, opposing a blueprint laid down by Beijing that would have meant candidates were vetted by a loyalist committee.

That reform package was voted down by legislators in June, in an unprecedented rebuke to Beijing.


Part of airport to be used to store rice

COLOMBO • Part of a vanity project airport built by toppled Sri Lankan strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa will be used as a rice storage warehouse to reduce its losses after failing to take off.

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, in the former president's constituency 250km from Colombo, has been shunned by most airlines after opening in 2013 because of plane-bird collisions resulting from being sited on a bird migration route.

The near-empty US$210 million (S$297 million)airport has provided a surprise boon to rice farmers, however, after a bumper harvest left them short of shortage space.

The arrival of the first truckload of rice yesterday met with unrest as dozens of airport employees loyal to Mr Rajapaksa protested against the rice storage plan.


Yangon rail system to be overhauled

YANGON • Myanmar has approved the overhaul of a circular rail system in its commercial capital, Yangon, in a step towards modernising a city choked by traffic jams.

The US$207-million (S$293-million) Japan-funded upgrade to the 48km system will focus on technological improvements and new trains, according to a Ministry of Rail Transport official.

Yangon has an estimated six million people, but with economic reforms, more cars are clogging its streets. The rail system is used by 90,000 people and a full journey, stopping at the 29 stations, now takes two hours and 20 minutes.


New Malaysian agency to manage disasters

PUTRAJAYA • The Malaysian government has set up a new National Disaster Management Agency to be in charge of managing natural disasters.

It comes under the Prime Minister's Department and takes over the disaster management from the National Security Council.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, said yesterday that the Civil Defence Department will be drafted into the agency.


Jakarta high-speed rail contract under review

JAKARTA • Indonesia has delayed the announcement of the winner of a hotly contested race between China and Japan to build its first high-speed railway.

Both have lobbied the Indonesian government to build the 150km link between Jakarta and the textile hub of Bandung.

President Joko Widodo had been expected to announce a winner this week, but Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said yesterday that a review by an independent consultancy and a team of Cabinet ministers would delay it until after Sept 7.

Indonesia's state enterprises minister has said that if China were to win the contract, several Indonesian state-owned companies would be involved in the consortium.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'AsiaBriefs'. Print Edition | Subscribe