Bangkok, Oct 22 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Thailand's Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) on Tuesday advised people living in parts of the country to brace for water shortages which may last up to eight months.
The official dry season will start on November 1 in the country.
Before the announcement, Somkiat Prajamwong, secretary-general of the ONWR had warned that several reservoirs have been experiencing low water levels.
As many reservoirs in Thailand are the main sources for tap water production, "We will need to ask the people living in areas with water shortage to use water sparingly for quite a few months," said Somkiat.
The ONWR said several measures have been taken, including dredging of water channels to allow water to flow quickly into reservoirs, drilling of underground water wells, enlarging of water storage ponds and the purchase of water for consumption for residents in risk areas.
Thai Royal Irrigation Department also asked people to use water sparingly.
The department said there are currently about 6 billion cubic meters of usable water in major reservoirs including Bhumibol, Sirikit, Kwae Noi Bamrong Daen and Pasak Cholasit, with 5 billion cubic meters being reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic meters for use in agriculture.
The ONWR, a water management agency established in October 2017, is to oversee an integrated water management plan in Thailand.
Ramallah, Oct 21 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye on Monday held the Israeli government responsible for the "endless" raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the assaults against its worshippers in Jerusalem.
"The Israeli violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque are flagrant and systematic, and contradict the freedom of worshipping," Ishtaye said in a press statement issued after his cabinet's weekly meeting.
The Palestinian prime minister warned of the consequences of such violations and practices, saying they "aim at turning the conflict into a religious one in the Middle East."
Ishtaye also condemned the Israeli settlers for expelling Palestinians out of their farms and preventing them from reaching their groves to pick up their crops.
He called on the international community, Arab and Islamic states to "bear their responsibilities toward ensuring protection" of the Palestinians and their holy places.
Manila, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is cutting short his trip to Japan due to "unbearable pain" in his spinal column caused by his fall during a motorcycle ride last week, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Duterte attended Japanese Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony in Tokyo on Tuesday, at times using a cane and appearing to stand stiffly. In other photos sent by an aide to the media in Manila, the 74-year-old president appears to be in a light mood as he, his daughter and an aide extend their fists forward in a symbolic gesture associated with Duterte.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte would fly back to the Philippines later Tuesday and see his neurologist Wednesday but assured the public that the president's health was not worrisome.
"The palace announces that the president will cut short his trip to Japan due to unbearable pain in his spinal column near the pelvic bone as a consequence of his fall during his motorcycle ride," Panelo said in a statement. "While this was unforeseeable, the public can rest assured that there is nothing to worry as regards the physical health and condition of the president."
As a result, Durterte was to miss a banquet for the Japanese emperor that was to instead be attended by his daughter, Sara Duterte, who is mayor of Davao city, the Dutertes' hometown and political bailiwick in the southern Philippines.
An avid rider of big motorcycles in his younger days, Duterte sustained bruises and scratches when he fell off his parked motorcycle last Thursday in the sprawling presidential palace complex in Manila, but Panelo said then that the president's minor injuries would not affect his schedule.
Duterte said last year that he suffers from "perpetual pain" due to a spinal injury he sustained in a motorcycle accident many years ago. He has also acknowledged using Fentanyl, an opioid used to treat chronic pain that can also be used as a recreational drug.
A lack of regular medical bulletins on the president's health has sparked sporadic speculation about the state of his health, especially when he failed to appear in public for days in recent times.
When Duterte did not show up in public for more than a week in August, Panelo explained that the president was busy reviewing documents he needed to sign but stressed he was healthy because he even managed to bike around in Davao.
"He got enthusiastic and rode out of the village enclave on a motorcycle, alarming the Presidential Security Group," Panelo told reporters then.
Lahore, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was convicted on corruption charges, was rushed to hospital from the prison after recent blood tests raised doctors' concerns, his physician said Tuesday.
The former premier was taken to hospital late on Monday, said Sharif's doctor, Adnan Malik.
Doctors initially believed Sharif had contracted dengue fever, which is rampant in Pakistan, but on Tuesday the government issued a statement saying his concerningly low platelet count may have been the results of medication he was taking.
Sharif was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges and seven years on a separate money laundering charge. He is also under investigation on other corruption allegations. Sharif has appealed the two convictions, insisting on his innocence.
In related developments, Sharif's son-in-law, Mohammad Safdar, was arrested on Monday after he alleged that Sharif was being slowly poisoned — a charge that Pakistani authorities promptly denied.
The National Accountability Bureau, which oversees investigations into corruption allegations, had questioned Sharif for the past week on corruption charges in connection with a sugar mill in which he held controlling shares while serving as prime minister.
The charges also allege that other members of his family, including his daughter Maryam Nawaz, retained shares. Sharif's daughter is appealing an earlier conviction on corruption charges against her. She was sentenced to seven years for her involvement in the purchase of apartments in London but is now out on bail during the appeal process.
Prime Minister Imran Khan's government has been relentless in pursuit of corruption cases but has come under fire for focusing most of its attention on its opponents.
As well as Sharif, the government has alleged corruption by the co-leader of another political opposition party, the Pakistan People's Party, led by Benazir Bhutto. She was killed in 2007 after returning to Pakistan from self-imposed exile. Her husband Asif Ali Zardari is in custody, under investigation on corruption charges.
The couple's son and co-leader of the party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, told reporters on Monday that his father was not receiving medical treatment despite a court order. It wasn't immediately clear what ailment the elder Zardari suffers from.
Yambio, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — When he escaped the armed group that had abducted him at the age of 15, the child soldier swore he'd never go back. But the South Sudanese teen still thinks about returning to the bush, six months after the United Nations secured his release.
"Being asked to kill someone is the hardest thing," he told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity for his safety.
And yet the army offered him a kind of stability he has yet to find outside it. "I had everything, bedding and clothes, I'd just steal what I needed ... here, I haven't received what I was expecting," he said.
He lives with family, adrift, waiting to attend a U.N.-sponsored job skills program, struggling to forget his past.
There are an estimated 19,000 child soldiers in South Sudan, one of the highest rates in the world, according to the U.N. As the country emerges from a five-year civil war that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions, some worry the fighting could re-ignite if former child soldiers aren't properly reintegrated into society.
"Without more support, the consequence is that the children will move towards the barracks where there's social connection, food and something to do," said William Deng Deng, chairman for South Sudan's national disarmament demobilization and reintegration commission. "They loot and raid and it will begin to create insecurity."
Since the fighting broke out in 2013, the U.N. children's agency has facilitated the release of more than 3,200 child soldiers from both government and opposition forces.
Yet even after a peace deal was signed a year ago, the rate of forced child soldier recruitment by both sides in the conflict is increasing, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said in a statement earlier this month.
"Ironically, the prospect of a peace deal has accelerated the forced recruitment of children, with various groups now seeking to boost their numbers before they move into the cantonment sites," said commission chairwoman Yasmin Sooka. According to the peace deal the government and opposition should have 41,500 troops trained and unified into one national army.
Children who leave armed groups often struggle to adjust.
The AP followed several child soldiers among 121 released in February. Many said they are still haunted by their pasts, unable to talk about their experiences for fear of being stigmatized and often incapable of controlling their anger.
"Whenever I think about the bush, even if I'm playing football, I feel like stopping and picking something up and hitting my friends," said a 13-year-old. The AP is not using the names of the former child soldiers to protect their identities.
Abducted by armed men when he was 11, he worked as a spy for an opposition group and at times was forced to witness and partake in horrific acts. He watched a soldier kill a child for refusing to do his chores, and he was forced to set a house on fire, burning alive everyone inside.
"I hear those people screaming in my dreams," he said.
Once released, the former child soldiers are given a three-month reintegration package including food and the opportunity for educational and psychosocial support. However, the system is overburdened and underfunded.
"It's a lot of work. Sometimes I can only spend 15 to 20 minutes with each child," said Joseph Ndepi, a social worker with World Vision who is supporting 46 children.
Many families don't know how to deal with their children's change in behavior once they've returned.
"When he initially got out he was so rough he'd beat the kids, and when our mom tried to intervene he'd turn on her," one 16-year-old said of her elder brother. Both children were abducted and released from armed groups at the same time.
While the girl wanted to forget the past, her brother tried to relive it.
At night he'd sneak out of the house and perform mock ambushes to see how close he could get to robbing people's properties without being caught, the 17-year-old said. Since starting therapy he has stopped the late-night excursions and reined in his temper.
Some of the children's behavior is related to the power they felt in the army, said Kutiote Justin, a social worker with Catholic Medical Mission Board, an international aid group. One former child soldier he works with insists on calling himself "the commander."
A lack of resources for reintegration could hurt long-term assistance.
About 420 children have participated in vocational courses to learn professions such as welding, carpentry and tailoring, yet it's unclear if there will be enough funding to continue past December.
Almost $5 million is needed for the next two years but currently only $500,000 is available, according to UNICEF.
"Donors aren't funding to the same extent they used to and now there's potentially an even greater need," said spokesman Yves Willemot. And more child soldiers are expected to be released in the near future, he said.
South Sudan's government isn't investing in child soldier reintegration, according to the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration commission. The hope is that once a unity government is formed in mid-November, a key part of the peace deal, the international community will be more inclined to contribute.
But the peace deal is fraught with delays and questionable political will. The government hasn't committed the $100 million it pledged for the peace process, and key elements such as training a unified army have yet to be realized.
Meanwhile, families whose children have returned from the fighting are doing what they can to keep them from leaving again.
In August the 17-year-old felt lonely, so he packed his bags and headed for the bush. He got as far as the main road before his family's words echoed through his head.
"Stay with your people, don't go to that place," he said, recalling their advice. "Just stay here in peace."