Pakistan: general elections to be held in January
Today's headlines: clashes continue in Manipur, 10 injured yesterday; In Laos, the debt trap with China may be bigger than imagined; Dust and volcanic gases in the Philippines cause school closures; In South Korea, video game champions might get exemption from military service; Still no agreement for Nagorno-Karabakh after the capitulation of Armenian militias under fire from Azerbaijani army; African countries abandon the rouble for the Chinese yuan in purchases from Russia.
The Electoral Commission has announced that the long-awaited general elections will be held in the last week of January next year, explaining that, initially scheduled for November, they have been delayed due to the new classification of constituencies, a list of which will be published by the end of November.
In the north-eastern state of Manipur, where violent clashes between the Meitei and Kuki tribes have been taking place since the beginning of May, at least 10 people were injured after a confrontation with the police in the capital Imphal. A total curfew was imposed in some districts as a precautionary measure by the authorities. Previously the curfew had been relaxed from 5am to 9pm to allow the purchase of basic necessities.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Laos' public debt amounts to 123% of GDP in 2023. More than half is owed to China, which has financed several large infrastructure projects in recent years, but economists say they "have never seen anything similar” regarding the degree of secrecy surrounding the country's debt situation: "Laos' debt crisis is much bigger than the world realizes," Mariza Cooray told Nikkei Asia. “This is partly due to the incredible level of opacity and poor quality of the statistics and information disseminated.”
Philippine authorities this morning closed schools in five cities and dozens of small towns, urging people to stay at home due to the emission of volcanic dust and gas from a small volcano near the capital Manila, Taal. 311 meters high, it is among the most active of the 24 volcanoes in the country: in January 2020 it emitted a column of ash and steam up to 15 km high, forcing more than 100 thousand people to evacuate.
South Korea grants limited exemptions from military service and for the first time it could be granted to video game champions (while members of the famous K-pop band BTS were not granted). In fact, for South Korean men, winning gold in any sport at the Asian Games which open tomorrow in Hangzhou entails an automatic 18-month exemption from the army. This year for the first time eSports will be an official sport and South Korean gamers are among the favourites.
TAIWAN – CHINA
Taiwan's Defense Ministry said it detected 24 Chinese air force planes entering the island's air defense zone. According to a map published by the ministry, at least 17 planes crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait. The median line previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides until the Chinese air force began crossing it regularly last year.
NAGORNO - KARABAKH
The meeting of representatives of Baku with those of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh ended in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh, to talk about the future of the inhabitants of the region after the capitulation of the unrecognized republic. After several hours of closed-door negotiations, no agreement was reached, because "some details still need to be agreed upon," said Armenian representative David Babayan.
AFRICA - RUSSIA - CHINA
African countries are stopping using the ruble for financial transactions linked to exports from Russia, switching to the Chinese yuan, as shown by statistics released by the Bank of Russia. Before the war in Ukraine, over 98% of African payments to Russians were made in dollars or euros, but with the sanctions and the current collapse of the ruble everything has changed: in February they were 82% in rubles, now they have dropped to 12%.