In today's bulletin: Coronavirus, Thai army reforms after mass shooting, no working from home in Japan, and more.
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CHINA'S DEATH TOLL PASSES 1800, WUHAN HOSPITAL DIRECTOR DIES
The head of a leading hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, died of the disease on Tuesday as the number of new coronavirus cases in mainland China fell below 2,000 for the first time since January. But the virus remains far from contained.
The total death toll in China has climbed to 1,868. There were 1,886 new confirmed infections, for a total of 72,436.
The virus didn't seem that serious at first, one Wuhan patient told The Straits Times.
Meanwhile, a rare release of Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech on coronavirus puzzled top China watchers. This comes as police arrested an activist who had criticised Xi.
And, as people continue to leave the two cruise ships caught in the outbreak, Cambodia PM Hun Sen defended allowing the Westerdam ship to dock despite a coronavirus diagnosis, while countries started evacuating citizens from the ship off Japan.
Must read: Can coronavirus outbreak change China's wildlife trade?
THAI ARMY BEGINS REFORMS AFTER MASS SHOOTING, ANALYSTS SCEPTICAL
The Thai army's welfare and business schemes are under intense scrutiny after a sergeant-major gunned down his superior and killed 29 people on a shooting rampage which was said to have been triggered by the soldier being cheated over a housing loan under the army's welfare scheme.
The benefits for soldiers included housing loan "cashback" arrangements and half-price guns for personal use. Now the Finance Ministry has taken over managing some of the army's considerable assets in order to address longstanding allegations of corruption.
Just days after the mass shooting, a man opened fire in Bangkok.
Find out why: Thai army chief apologises for soldier's rampage
INCENDIARY RHETORIC FROM BJP LEADERS PROMPTS CONCERNS OF HINDU RADICALISATION IN INDIA
After a young protester fired a shot at a demonstration in Delhi last month, concerns are mounting about the increasing radicalisation of Hindus and whether incendiary rhetoric from those in power has aggravated an already tense climate.
Just days before the incident, a federal minister from the BJP-led government instigated the crowd at an election rally into chanting a slogan calling for the "bloody traitors" (meaning anti-citizenship law protesters and critics of the government) to be shot.
Don't miss: There is a renewed push in India for a controversial move to link voter cards with biometric details.
LEAKED DOCUMENT SHOWS HOW CHINA TRACKED UIGHUR DETAINEES
A spreadsheet leaked by overseas Uighurs to the international media includes the names and government identification numbers of more than 300 people held in indoctrination camps and information on hundreds of their relatives and neighbours. Even children were closely monitored for signs of what Beijing considered to be wayward thinking...things like giving up alcohol, wanting to go on a religious pilgrimage, or attending a funeral.
A 2019 leak revealed a secret directive giving detailed orders for how the rapidly expanding indoctrination camps should be managed.
China hit back on the issue earlier this month, accusing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of slander, after he called on Kazakhstan to join Washington in pressing China over its treatment of Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang province.
Must read: Inside the Uighur re-education camps.
Find out why: Beijing tries to gain control of narrative on its policy of re-education camps.
THREE QUARTERS OF AUSTRALIANS AFFECTED BY BUSH FIRES, COAL FINDS FEWER FRIENDS
Three in four Australians - almost 18 million people - were affected by the country's deadly bush fire crisis, according to a survey released on Tuesday (Feb 18) that also pointed to plummeting support for the government and for coal projects. The crisis has opened a window of opportunity for the country to break a decade-long impasse on climate policy, as some politicians and big business push for major change.
Recent downpours have brought relief to areas ravaged by bush fires and drought - as well as chaos and destruction to towns and cities along the eastern seaboard.
Must read: Calls for Aboriginal fire practices.
Don't miss: New South Wales eases water restrictions.
IN OTHER NEWS
In Japan, working from home is rare. In a Reuters poll, 83 per cent of Japanese companies said they don't currently allow employees to work from home. And 73 per cent of firms surveyed said they aren't considering allowing what Japan often refers to as 'telework', or telecommuting.
A former South Korean coast guard chief was indicted Tuesday (Feb 18) for allegedly bungling the 2014 rescue operations at one of the country's deadliest maritime disasters, when more than 300 people were killed, most of them schoolchildren.
China will grant exemptions on retaliatory duties imposed against 696 US goods, the most substantial tariff relief to be offered so far, as Beijing seeks to fulfil commitments made in its interim trade deal with the United States.
That's it for now - see you tomorrow,