60 years later - two under construction - the sacred Trans Bhutan Trail reopens

Today's headlines: Beijing imports four million barrels of Iranian oil; India and Pakistan tested 26 missiles last year, Pyongyang six; a human rights award goes to Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang; Japan bulls US soldiers 'trojan horse' for Covid entry; Isis assaults a prison in Syria. 


For the first time since 1960 and after two years of intensive renovation, Bhutan has reopened the historic and sacred Trans Bhutan Trail. The 403km route, which runs the length of the Buddhist country, will be officially inaugurated by the king in March with international visitors allowed to travel the trail from April. G Adventures will be the first tour operator to manage bookings. 


Beijing has imported four million barrels of Iranian oil into state reserves at the southern port of Zhanjiang in recent weeks. In the past, Chinese imports were not publicised amid fears of US sanctions for buyers and middlemen. According to Vortexa Analytics, China imported 261,000 tonnes (1.9 million barrels) of the ayatollahs' crude oil in December. 


India and Pakistan, two historic rivals in South Asia, conducted 26 missile tests in 2021, a year of intense armed rivalry. Delhi tested 16 ballistic and cruise missiles; Islamabad 10 missiles with almost identical capabilities in a kind of frontal response, for an equivalent of two tests per month. In the same period the dreaded North Korea conducted 'only' six tests. 


Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang, who is serving nine years in prison for 'propaganda against the state', was awarded the 2022 Martin Ennals Human Rights Award. She had already received numerous awards for her work in the past. During the trial, last December, the judge imposed a sentence higher than that imposed by the authorities. 


The recent increase in Covid-19 cases, now in its sixth wave, encouraged by the arrival of the new and more contagious Omicron variant, is (also) to be blamed on the US army. According to some experts, US soldiers on Japanese bases are acting as unwitting 'trojan horses' and encouraging the entry of the virus into the country. One of the reasons is the failure to respect quarantine and health regulations. 


The Islamic State attacked a Kurdish-controlled prison in north-eastern Syria yesterday afternoon. The assault led to the release of several jihadists, although the number is currently "unspecified". The ilitiamen detonated a bomb at the entrance of the prison of Ghwayran, then a second bomb which followed the attack. 


The supporters of Aleksej Naval'nyj celebrated the first anniversary of the publication of the investigation into the "Putin palace" in Gelendžik, on the Black Sea, with a photograph taken by a drone showing the interior. The footage has been seen by more than 100 million people; some had doubted the authenticity of some of the 3-D reconstructions, now confirmed by the photograph.


The year 2022 has been declared the "Epoch of the People with Arkadag", President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov has been given the title of "father" and the authorities of the Lebap region have established the "elevation in rank" of praises to the leader. The authorities have also decided to 'raise the level' of praise for the leader and are studying the most suitable forms of worship for the presidential personality, recommending that his portrait be displayed in the most honourable corners of houses.