Thursday, March 15, 2007

Two items from Thailand






'Muslim militants' execute nine Thai bus passengers by Ian MacKinnon
Separatist violence in southern Thailand boiled over today when suspected Muslim militants ambushed a commuter minibus and killed nine Buddhists in cold blood.

The execution-style attack in the province of Yala - which included women and children among the victims - shocked even those who have become inured to the almost-daily tally of bombings, drive-by shootings and beheadings.

Thailand's military-installed government, which has made strenuous efforts to calm ethnic tensions since seizing power, further stepped up security across three restive southern provinces populated by ethnic Malay Muslims.

The latest murders, which add to a grim litany of killings over the past week, mark a new low and send a clear message that the separatists have no intention of compromising or entering a dialogue.

In today's attack, three men and six women, including two girls aged 14 and 15, were shot in the head at point blank range after their vehicle was held up in daylight.

Logs had been used to block the road, and when the bus slowed down five gunmen opened fire on the vehicle, which ran off the road and crashed into a ditch. The Muslim driver, the only survivor, was shot in the face before the militants wrenched open the side door to shoot those inside.

Officers discovered the victims - described as Buddhist villagers, traders, teachers and school students and a soldier - slumped in their seats. One passenger was still alive, but they died on the way to hospital.

Angered U.S. firm excludes Thailand from new drugs by Darren Schuettler
(Reuters) - U.S. drugs giant Abbott Laboratories said it would stop launching new medicines in Thailand in protest at the army-backed government's move to override international drug patents ... [which] which declared a "compulsory licence" in January allowing it to make or buy generic versions of Abbott's Kaletra to treat HIV/AIDS.

Malaysia and Indonesia were the first in Southeast Asia to issue such licences for AIDS drugs three years ago, but Thailand has gone farther in challenging Big Pharma by targeting other drugs.

[The licenses are] legal under world trade rules, ... which allow governments to make or buy generic versions of medicines needed for public health measures....

"Thailand has chosen to break patents on numerous medicines, ignoring the patent system. As such, we've elected not to introduce new medicines there," Abbott spokeswoman Jennifer Smoter told Reuters.

There was no immediate reaction from the Health Ministry, which argues it needs cheaper, copycat drugs to ensure wider access for Thailand's 63 million people, including 580,000 living with HIV/AIDS.

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