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Thailand: Islamic State Agents from Syria in Thailand to Target Russians

Thai police say they were warned by Moscow that ten Syrians working for the so-called Islamic State (IS) entered Thailand in October to target Russians.

A leaked Thai police memo says the information was passed by Russia’s intelligence agency. More than 1.5 million Russians visited in 2013.

But Thai police say they have not been able to confirm the presence of these Syrians and officials called for the people to remain calm.

The memo reads, “They traveled separately. Four went to Pattaya, two to Phuket, two to Bangkok and the other two to an unknown location."

The plan was to target “Russians and Russia’s alliance with Thailand," it says.

Pattaya and Phuket are both popular resort destinations for Russian tourists, and Christmas and New Year are peak seasons.

National Security Council Chief General Thawip Netniyom said, “We have yet to find any unusual movement. Everything is safe, rest assured."

Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

Photo Credit: AP

Cambodia: Political Motives Seen Behind Canceled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival in Phnom Penh, authorities canceled the event this year.

Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition.

Cambodia’s water festival is a tradition that draws hundreds of thousands to the capital for its boat races on the Tonlé Sap, where the lake water starts draining back to the rivers due to the end of the monsoon.

Officials state that the cancellation is due to the low level of the river and drought, but many people doubt the saying.

Two opposite councilors were attacked outside the city council and the opposite leader received a warrant, which shows the deteriorating political situation in Cambodia.

Sebastian Strangio, author of the book, “Hun Sen’s Cambodia,” says it’s difficult not to relate the cancellation of the water festival to recent political incidents. The government will not be willing to see a million people flood to the streets and public places all over Phnom Penh under the current political situation.

Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

Photo Credit: AP

Vietnam: EU Concludes Negotiations on Free Trade Agreement

Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang and European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom signed an announcement on the official conclusion of negotiations on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) in Brussels on December 2.

Vietnam and the EU concurred to complete the ratification process of the deal as soon as possible to put the pact into effect on the outset of 2018.

The two sides announced the official launch of negotiations on June 26, 2012 and after 14 rounds of negotiations in the past three years, the two sides reached a consensus regarding the trade pact.

The signing ceremony is considered a milestone in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam-EU diplomatic ties.

Regarding import-export, the two sides’ strong commitments to market opening will open the door wider for various kinds of export products, especially those of their strengths such as Vietnam’s garment-textile, footwear, farm produce, seafood, and timber products and the EU’s machinery, equipment, automobile, alcoholic beverages and some agricultural products.

Vietnam and the EU will eliminate tariffs on over 99% of tariff lines.

Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade points out that it is expected to bring enormous economic benefits for both Vietnam and the EU due to highly supplementary and less directly competitive import-export structure.

The EU is currently the second biggest trade partner of Vietnam, with two-way trade increasing from US$ 17.75 billion in 2010 to US$ 36.8 billion in 2014.

In the first half of 2015, bilateral trade topped US$ 19.4 billion, a year-on-year rise of 11%.

Photo Credit: reuters/達志影像

Photo Credit: Reuters

Translated and compiled by June and Eric Wong
Edited by Olivia Yang