UN, boom in opium cultivation in Myanmar: +33% by 2022

Today's headlines: Yemen and Lebanon sites included on Unesco's endangered heritages list; Taiwan's 71-year-old former vice-president Chen Chien-jen, a Catholic, will be the new prime minister; police arrest four student leaders for attempting to screen the BBC documentary critical of PM Modi; the Duma approves the law extending the genomic registration requirement to everyone. 

In Myanmar led by the military coup junta, opium cultivation increased by 33% last year. This figure emerged from a UN report and reverses the results of the previous six years, when the democratic government of Aung San Suu Kyi was at the helm of the country. The increase is therefore "directly linked" to the political and economic turmoil and the rule of the military. 

Unesco has put the monuments of the ancient kingdom of Saba (Marib) on its list of World Heritage at Risk. An emergency procedure was used, due to threats of destruction linked to the ongoing conflict since 2014. Also on the list is the Rachid Karameh International Fair in Tripoli, Lebanon, among the most significant architectures of the 20th century. 

Critical cases of Covid-19 decreased by 72% while daily deaths in hospital dropped by 79%. This was reported by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, according to which during the peak viral circulation phase there were 7 million infections (22 December) and over 4,000 deaths on 4 January. According to one expert, more than 80% of the 1.4 billion inhabitants have been infected. 

Four members of the Students' Federation of India (Sfi) were arrested by the police yesterday, just hours after the release of a BBC documentary at Jamia University critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to the university, there was no permission for the screening, and it was the university's management that cut off the electricity supply and alerted the police. 

Taiwan's former vice-president from 2016 to 2020, 71-year-old Catholic Chen Chien-jen, will be the new prime minister as part of a government reshuffle following the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) electoral collapse in last year's elections. Predecessor Su Tseng-chang submitted his resignation last week, along with the cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has published new guidelines for tourism agencies to promote Thai culture and attract international visitors. The document is based on the 5Fs (in English: food, film, fashion, fighting and festivals). As far as food is concerned, 2023 is declared the Year of Thai Gastronomy, with events from street food to food fairs. 

The Moscow Duma definitively approved the law extending the obligation of genomic registration to the entire population, starting with all those convicted by court sentences and all those arrested. Until now, DNA analysis was only carried out on those convicted of serious crimes, or crimes against the sexual integrity of the person.

A group of Kyrgyz from Afghanistan appealed to the government in Biškek in recent days, with the request to help them move to their homeland in the area of the Vakhansk corridor, after selling property and animals. Behind the appeal is an attempt to escape the Taliban; they are currently in rented hovels near the borders of Tajikistan, in the province of Badakšan.