Tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan votes in third ever election as India and China tussle for influence

Voters in Bhutan, “Land of the Thunder Dragon”, went to the polls Saturday in the first round of only the third election in the small Himalayan nation wedged between rivals India and China.
The two parties with the most votes will contest a run-off on October 18, with Harvard-educated Tshering Tobgay, 52, hoping for a second consecutive term as prime minister.
But the keen mountain-biker’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) faces a tough challenge from the Druk Phuensum…

Shops threatened with legal action over book about fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low

London-based libel lawyers representing a playboy financier have sent threatening letters to bookshops around the world in an attempt to block distribution of a new book detailing his alleged involvement in one of the biggest financial scandals in history.
Free speech campaigners said the decision to threaten a book’s distributors rather than the publisher or author could be seen as an attempt to “short-circuit the legal process” around libel law and risks setting a precedent…

South Korea launches its first missile-capable submarine

South Korea launched its first ever missile-capable attack submarine on Friday, despite a recent diplomatic thaw with the nuclear-armed North.
The US$700 million, 3,000-tonne Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine is capable of firing both cruise and ballistic missiles and the first of three planned diesel-electric boats to go into service in the next five years. It represents a “leap forward” in the country’s defence industry, President Moon Jae-in told a launch ceremony at the Daewoo…

Bangkok fire department rarely attends fires – but there’s a 24-hour hotline for catching snakes

A fire department in northern Bangkok has not received a call for a fire since June. But for trapping a slithery foe? There is a 24-hour hotline.
“The work [catching snakes] is quite a lot,” said Suraphong Suepchai, a 46-year-old firefighter working in the Thai capital’s Lat Yao district. “For firefighting, we have none.”
Snakes are a common sight in Bangkok, a bustling city built on once swampy land, and it is not unusual to see them slithering across public…

‘We are opening up our country’: Japan minister says country welcomes foreign workers

Japan is preparing to accept more foreign workers as its own population is on the brink of a steep decline, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on Thursday.
Kono told a World Economic Forum meeting in Hanoi that Japan gains “value added” by accepting foreigners, especially since its ageing population and low birth rate mean the country is shrinking by half a million people a year.
Why Japan’s ageing population is dying alone
“We cannot sustain our society like that,”…

‘Nice Chinese’ hamper Malaysian hard bargaining over US$20 billion East Coast Rail Link

Malaysia may hope to drive a hard bargain as it reviews the terms of a controversial Beijing-backed US$20 billion rail project, but it’s finding it tricky because Chinese negotiators are “so nice” and professional, Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng said on Thursday.
“They have been very understanding and cooperative and we want to record our appreciation. And they have behaved really professionally and not like those, what do you call, arrogant superpowers,”…