Top Asian News 5:03 a.m. GMT
NEW DELHI (AP) — As Indians wake Monday to smoke-filled skies from a weekend of festival fireworks, New Delhi's worst season for air pollution begins — with dire consequences. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs. Of that global total, 300 million kids are exposed to pollution levels more than six times higher than standards set by the World Health Organization, including 220 million in South Asia.
Five Filipino sailors returned home last week after being held captive by Somali pirates for more than four years. The five were among 26 released sailors who had been held since the pirates seized them and their Taiwanese-owned fishing vessel in March 2012. International mediators said the release "represents the end of captivity for the last remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy." In other images from the Asia-Pacific region last week, two newly elected Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers — Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung of the Youngspiration party — defied an order barring them from taking their oaths after being disqualified earlier for insulting China, sparking more unruly scenes in Hong Kong's legislature.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine aerial surveillance showed Chinese coast guard ships were still guarding a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, but they did not harass and stop Filipinos from fishing there for the first time in years, the Philippine defense secretary said Sunday. The fishermen's return to Scarborough Shoal, which China effectively seized in 2012, was "a most welcome development" because it brings back their key source of livelihood, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said. China granted access to the tiny, uninhabited shoal 123 nautical miles (228 kilometers) from the northern Philippines after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders this month.
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — By government accounts, four foreign-backed cellphone operators owe $500 million to Bangladesh in unpaid taxes. By the companies' accounts, the figure is closer to $50 million — if it isn't zero. As the legal row drags into its fourth year without resolution, telecommunications analysts warn it is putting pressure on the industry that is Bangladesh's single largest source of revenue, providing $1.43 billion in tax revenues in 2015. Government regulators say the companies broke the law by selling old SIM cards without properly notifying regulators, and then failed to pay taxes on those sales from July 2009 and December 2011.
PHNOM PEHN, Cambodia (AP) — Former Cambodian Prime Minister Pen Sovann, who was installed then imprisoned by the Vietnamese after they defeated the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, has died. He was 80. Pen Sovann was the country's first post-Khmer Rouge prime minister, holding the office from June to December 1981, when it was known as the People's Republic of Kampuchea. He died Saturday night from an illness in his hometown in southern Takeo province. In late 1981, Pen Sovann was removed from power by the Vietnamese in an ouster triggered by his calls for the withdrawal of Vietnam's forces from Cambodia.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia on Sunday announced plans to ratchet up its tough policy against refugees by banning any asylum seeker who attempts to reach its shores by boat from ever visiting the country. A previous government introduced a policy on July 19, 2013, banning refugees who arrive by boat from Indonesian ports after that date from ever being resettled in Australia. Under legislation to be introduced to Parliament next week, thousands of asylum seekers who have returned to their homelands in the Middle East, Africa and Asia would be banned for life from ever traveling to Australia as tourists, to do business or as an Australian's spouse, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani riot police Sunday used tear gas and batons to fight stone throwing supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, seizing weapons and detaining hundreds of people when they attempted to reach Islamabad for an anti-government rally scheduled next week. The clashes have been taking place intermittently since Friday, when the government imposed a ban on all rallies and protests in the capital. They erupted again on Sunday near Khan's suburban home and at several places on the outskirts of the capital. Khan has vowed to lock down Islamabad on Nov. 2 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says that at least seven civilians have been killed after a mortar shell fired by insurgent groups hit a home in northern Afghanistan. Mahmood Haqmal, spokesman for the provincial governor in Baghlan province, said Sunday that all the victims are from a single family —a mother and six of her children. A seventh child from the family was wounded, he said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack in Baghlan, but the Taliban have recently increased their attacks against Afghan security forces in the area.
MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian Soyuz space capsule has landed in Kazakhstan, bringing three astronauts from the United States, Japan and Russia back to Earth from a 115-day mission aboard the International Space Station. The landing took place Sunday morning near Dzhezkazgan on the treeless Central Asian steppes. Kate Rubins of NASA, Japan's Takuya Onishi and Anatoly Ivanishin of Russia were removed from the capsule and sat on the steppes still in their capsule seats while they readjusted to the forces of gravity after nearly four months in weightless conditions, then were taken to a nearby medical tent for initial examination.
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has reported its first case of microcephaly likely linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The 4-month-old girl with an abnormally small head was born in central Vietnam to a mother confirmed to have had the virus when she was pregnant. The Ministry of Health's General Department of Preventive Medicine said on its website Sunday that the case had a "high probability of being linked to Zika virus and also the first in Vietnam." If confirmed, Vietnam would be the second country in Southeast Asia after Thailand to have microcephaly case linked to Zika. The virus generally causes a mild flu-like illness, but a major outbreak in Brazil last year revealed that it can result in severe birth defects when pregnant women are infected.