ASIA NEWS BITES: Details Emerging of North Korean Execution Sites; Verdicts in Massive Thailand Human Trafficking Trial; Samsung’s Siri Says ‘Hello’

ASIA NEWS BITES: Details Emerging of North Korean Execution Sites; Verdicts in Massive Thailand Human Trafficking Trial; Samsung’s Siri Says ‘Hello’
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

What you need to know

A quick roundup of the most important news from around the region.


A Thai army general was one of the most prominent figures found guilty Wednesday in a major human trafficking trial that included more than 103 defendants accused of involvement in a modern-day slavery trade. - The Wall Street Journal

A judge handing down verdicts in Thailand's biggest human trafficking trial on Wednesday had announced 21 guilty verdicts by mid-morning from 103 defendants, with judgements expected to last late into the day. - Channel NewsAsia


Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Wednesday that it will not ban beef imports from the United States, where a fifth case of mad cow disease was confirmed the previous day.- Central News Agency

The nation’s first locally designed satellite, FORMOSAT-5, should be on its way to the US in preparation for its launch next month, National Space Organization (NSPO) officials said yesterday at a ceremony in Hsinchu.- The Taipei Times

The Taipei City government has become the first local government in Taiwan to grant gay employees marriage and paternity leave if they register their relationship at a household registration office. - Central News Agency

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) overall approval rating has rallied to 51.6 percent on the back of the passage of pension reform bills, a poll released yesterday by the Taiwan Style Foundation showed. - The Taipei Times


A sudden leadership change in one of China's biggest cities has highlighted President Xi Jinping's ambition to consolidate his grip on power at an upcoming major political gathering, analysts say. - Channel NewsAsia

Apple has just created what is likely to be one of the toughest jobs in tech: managing director of greater China. - The New York Times

High-level economic talks between the U.S. and China ended Wednesday without any concrete agreement or future agenda, leaving the Trump administration’s efforts to recast trade ties with Beijing in limbo. - The Wall Street Journal

Dalian Wanda Group, the Chinese conglomerate, tore up a $9.3 billion agreement to sell a portfolio of hotels and theme parks, unexpectedly reaching new deals on the properties that highlighted uncertainty over the financial health of the country’s biggest companies. - The New York Times

A surge in VIP takings at Macau casinos coupled with an unprecedented warning from its biggest junket operator about the dangers of moving money in and out of the city have sparked fears that the world’s top gaming hub could see Beijing launch a fresh crackdown on dirty cash. - South China Morning Post

The widow of late Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has been taken on an enforced "vacation" by state security police in the southwestern province of Yunnan, as rights activists held memorials for the dissident a week after his death. - Radio Free Asia


The Chinese government has issued a warning to neighboring India to withdraw its troops from the disputed Doklam border area to "avoid further escalation of the situation." - CNN

Indian companies trying to combat the stigma surrounding menstruation have launched a policy allowing female workers a day off each month. - The Guardian

A hardline Chinese newspaper today said that election of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister has fuelled Hindu nationalism, which in turn is pushing India in to war with China. - The India Today

A top Indian diplomat said China is being unusually aggressive in a month-old border dispute with India that shows no sign of easing, media reports said Wednesday. - Hong Kong Free Press via AFP

Hong Kong:

Deleted Forbes article criticizing Asia Society tycoon resurfaces online amid accusations of censorship. - Hong Kong Free Press

Hong Kong-based war reporter Zhou Yichuan knows the horror first-hand from covering conflicts in the Middle East and believes other countries’ upheaval could offer valuable lessons for the city in the push for greater democracy. - South China Morning Post


An earthquake with an initial magnitude of 5.8 hit northeast of Tokyo off Japan's main island of Honshu on Thursday (Jul 20), the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and the USGS reported.- Channel NewsAsia

A centuries-old porcelain plate on loan from Japan has been found partially damaged, but a joint investigation has ruled out vandalism and human negligence, Taiwan’s National Palace Museum said Wednesday. - The Japan Times

An American Airlines’ crew member was found to have 30 live bullets in his carry-on baggage last weekend at Narita International Airport, near Tokyo, during boarding procedures for the United States, investigators said Wednesday. - The Japan Times


A group of Myanmar reporters filed charges on Wednesday against an army sergeant and police officer in Yangon for violating a law protecting citizens’ privacy and security, amid growing concerns about the state of freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Myanmar. - Radio Free Asia

South Korea:

Bixby, Samsung Electronics Co.’s voice-activated virtual assistant, may be late to the party, but its U.S. launch Wednesday presents a new contender to Apple Inc.’s Siri in the race to make smartphones smarter and more user-friendly. - The Wall Street Journal

An ironic image ended up embodying this year's Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF). Standing in front of a line of Christian protesters bearing a banner reading "Homosexuality is sin! Return to Jesus!" is a bearded white male in robes, clearly dressed as "Jesus," holding a rainbow-colored sign reading "I'm cool with it." The image went viral, making the front page of Reddit Tuesday morning. - The Korea Times

Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha says the "final and irreversible" agreement between South Korea and Japan over Korean sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II needs a second look. - The Korea Times

North Korea:

For two years, from a cramped office in central Seoul, activists, and volunteers from five countries have been doing something never tried before: creating interactive maps of places where North Korea is thought to have executed and buried prisoners. - The New York Times

North Korea authorities have set strict conditions for citizens chosen to be overseas workers in an attempt to reduce the number of defectors after a group of 13 restaurant workers in China did not return home last year, sources familiar with the situation said. - Radio Free Asia

CNN has learned that US intelligence indicates that North Korea is making preparations for another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or intermediate range missile test. - CNN


Indonesia’s government on Wednesday banned an Islamist group with ambitions to include the country in a global caliphate, the first use of a new executive decree signed by President Joko Widodo last week. - The Wall Street Journal


Detailed ocean-floor maps made during the unsuccessful search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, released by Australia on Wednesday, could help increase the knowledge of rich fisheries and the prehistoric movement of the earth’s southern continents. - The Guardian


Vietnam agreed on Wednesday (Jul 19) to rescue more than 1,000 bears from illegal farms across the country, in a move to end the traditional medicine trade in the creatures' bile. - Channel NewsAsia


A 48-year-old Singaporean woman who was kidnapped at a lobby of a casino in Manila was rescued by Philippine authorities on Tuesday (Jul 18), according to local media reports. - Channel NewsAsia

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has offered the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) assistance to counter the threat of terrorism in the Philippines together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said on Wednesday (Jul 19). - Channel NewsAsia