Top Asian News 4:35 a.m. GMT
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A fire burning through a Cambodian hotel casino has killed at least 10 people and injured 30 others, police said Thursday, and neighboring Thailand sent firetrucks to help fight the blaze in a bustling border region. Videos posted on social media showed people apparently jumping from windows after they were trapped by the fire at the Grand Diamond City Casino and Hotel in the border town of Poipet. Thailand’s public broadcaster reported dozens of Thais were trapped inside. The blaze that started around midnight Wednesday was still burning Thursday morning. At least 10 people had been killed and another 30 injured, some critically, said Maj.
BEIJING (AP) — China says it will resume issuing passports for tourism in another big step away from anti-virus controls that isolated the country for almost three years, setting up a potential flood of Chinese going abroad for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday. The announcement Tuesday adds to abrupt changes that are rolling back some of the world’s strictest anti-virus controls as President Xi Jinping’s government tries to reverse an economic slump. Rules that confined millions of people to their homes kept China’s infection rate low but fueled public frustration and crushed economic growth. The latest decision could send free-spending Chinese tourists to revenue-starved destinations in Asia and Europe for Lunar New Year, which begins Jan.
The U.S. announced new COVID-19 testing requirements Wednesday for all travelers from China, joining other nations imposing restrictions because of a surge of infections. The increase in cases across China follows the rollback of the nation’s strict anti-virus controls. China’s “zero COVID” policies had kept the country’s infection rate low but fueled public frustration and crushed economic growth. The new U.S. requirements, which start Jan. 5, apply to travelers regardless of their nationality and vaccination status. In a statement explaining the testing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited the surge in infections and what it said was a lack of adequate and transparent information from China, including genomic sequencing on the viral strains circulating in the country.
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong will scrap some of its COVID-19 restrictions, including PCR tests for inbound travelers and vaccination requirements to enter certain venues, the city’s leader said Wednesday. For most of the pandemic, Hong Kong has aligned itself with China’s “zero-COVID” strategy, requiring stringent COVID-19 tests and isolation for close contacts of infected cases as well as for incoming travelers. But the mainland has relaxed measures in recent weeks, and Hong Kong is preparing for the January reopening of its border with China, which had previously imposed harsh restrictions and snap lockdowns to stamp out the virus. “Our society as a whole has built an extensive and high-level barrier of immunity (to COVID-19),” said Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee at a news conference.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presented new plans to further bolster his military power next year at a meeting of top political officials, state media reported Wednesday, in an indication he’ll continue his provocative run of weapons displays. Kim’s statement came as animosities with rival South Korea rose sharply this week with the South accusing the North of flying drones across the border for the first time in five years. This year, North Korea already performed a record number of missile tests in what experts call an attempt to modernize its arsenal and increase its leverage in future dealings with the United States.
NEW DELHI (AP) — Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir said government forces killed four suspected militants in a gunbattle on Wednesday. A top police officer, Mukesh Singh, said troops intercepted a truck in the outskirts of Jammu city early Wednesday following its “unusual movement” on a highway. As the troops began searching the truck, gunfire came from inside it, to which the troops retaliated, leading to a gunfight, Singh told reporters. Police said four suspected militants were killed and authorities recovered at least eight automatic rifles and some ammunition from the truck. According to police, the driver of the truck escaped and a search was under way to find him.
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh launched its first metro rail service, mostly funded by Japan, in the densely populated capital on Wednesday amid enthusiasm that the South Asian country’s development bonanza would continue with both domestic and overseas funds. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the service accompanied by newly appointed Japanese Ambassador Kiminori Iwama and Ichiguchi Tomohide, the chief representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA. “We have added another feather of pride to the crown of Bangladesh’s people today. Another feather added to the crown of the development of Bangladesh,” she said during the inauguration. Hasina used the ceremony to commemorate six Japanese rail engineers working on the project who were killed during an attack on a Dhaka cafe by Islamic extremists in 2016.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Heavy rains and floods that devastated parts of the Philippines over the Christmas weekend have left at least 32 dead and 24 missing, the national disaster response agency said Thursday. More than 56,000 people were still in emergency shelters after bad weather disrupted Christmas celebrations in the eastern, central and southern Philippines. Images from the southern province of Misamis Occidental showed rescuers carrying an elderly woman on a plastic chair as they waded through a flooded street. Some residents in the province were seen hanging on to floaters as coast guard rescuers pulled them across chest-deep floods using a rope.
SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — A Colorado man was arrested for investigation of committing hate crimes in California after two young adults of Asian descent were targeted with racist and homophobic comments as they recorded a TikTok food review video at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant, police said. The incident occurred Dec. 24 in the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Ramon. The video’s spread online caught the attention of Police Chief Denton Carlson, who put word out on social media seeking the identities of the victims and the suspect. “During their meal, a male suspect approached the victims unprovoked and engaged in a homophobic and racist rant, causing the victims to fear for their safety,” the San Ramon Police Department said in a news release.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Authorities arrested five people suspected of involvement in last week’s suicide car bombing that killed a police officer in the capital of Islamabad, Pakistan’s interior minister said Tuesday. Rana Sanaullah Khan made the announcement on Twitter, saying the detainees included the suicide bomber’s handler. He said the attacker arrived in the garrison city of Rawalpindi from a former tribal area of Kurram. Khan did not disclose the identity of the detainees and no spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, which had claimed responsibility for the attack, was immediately available for comment. Initially, police and the government said the slain driver of the weaponized vehicle was also a suspect.