North Korean murder suspects go home with victim's body as Malaysia forced to swap

KUALA LUMPUR: Three North Koreans wanted for questioning over the murder of the estranged half-brother of their country’s leader returned home on Friday (Mar 31) along with the body of victim Kim Jong Nam after Malaysia agreed a swap deal with the reclusive state.

Malaysian police investigating what U.S. and South Korean officials say was an assassination carried out by North Korean agents took statements from the three North Koreans before they were allowed to leave the country.

“We have obtained whatever we want from them … They have assisted us and they have been allowed to leave,” police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, saying there was no grounds to hold the men.

Kim Jong Nam, the elder half-brother of the North’s young, unpredictable leader Kim Jong Un, was killed at Kuala Lumpur’s airport on Feb 13 in a bizarre assassination using VX nerve agent, a chemical so lethal that it is on a UN list of weapons of mass destruction.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the remains of a North Korean citizen killed in Malaysia were returned to North Korea via Beijing along with “relevant” North Korean citizens.

Malaysian authorities released Kim’s body on Thursday in a deal that secured the release of nine Malaysian citizens held in Pyongyang after a drawn out diplomatic spat.

Malaysian police had named eight North Koreans they wanted to question in the case, including the three who were given safe passage to leave Malaysia on Thursday evening.

Television footage obtained by Reuters from Japanese media showed Hyon Kwang Song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Kim Uk Il, a North Korean state airline employee on the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The police chief confirmed they were accompanied by compatriot Ri Ji U, also known as James, who had been hiding with them at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

A van believed to be carrying the body of Kim Jong Nam leaves the Kuala Lumpur Hospital. (Photo: Kyodo/via Reuters)

Malaysian police had named eight North Koreans they wanted to question in the case, including the three who were given safe passage to leave Malaysia on Thursday evening.

Television footage obtained by Reuters from Japanese media showed Hyon Kwang Song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Kim Uk Il, a North Korean state airline employee on the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The police chief confirmed they were accompanied by compatriot Ri Ji U, also known as James, who had been hiding with them at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian prosecutors have charged two women – an Indonesian and a Vietnamese – with killing him, but South Korean and US officials had regarded them as pawns in an operation carried out by North Korean agents.

Kim Jong Nam, who had been living in exile in the Chinese territory of Macau for several years, survived an attempt on his life in 2012, according to South Korean lawmakers.

They say Kim Jong Un had issued a “standing order” for his assassination to consolidate his own power following their father’s death in 2011.

The other North Koreans named by Malaysian investigators are all back in North Korea.

Police believe four fled Malaysia on the same day as the murder and another was held for a week before being released due to insufficient evidence.

Angered by the probe, North Korea issued a travel ban on Malaysians earlier this month, trapping three diplomats and six family members – including four children – in Pyongyang.

Malaysia, which had previously friendly ties with the unpredictable nuclear-armed state, responded with a ban of its own, but was left with little option but to accede to North Korea’s demands for the return of the body and safe passage for the three nationals hiding in the embassy.


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak , who is currently on an official visit in India, issued a statement announcing the return of the body, but did not mention Kim by name.

“Following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body,” Najib said, adding that the murder investigation would continue.

North Korea has maintained that the dead man is not Kim Jong Nam and that the body is that of Kim Chol, the name given in a passport found on the victim.

Najib’s statement did not mention the safe passage given to the North Koreans that police had wanted to question, but it did say the travel ban on North Koreans leaving Malaysia had been lifted.

North Korea also released a statement saying both countries managed to “resolve issues arising from the death of a DPRK national.”

The swap agreement brings to an end nearly seven weeks of diplomatic standoff, with Pyongyang finally getting its way, analysts said.

“It is a win (for North Korea), clearly,” Andrei Lankov, North Korea expert at Seoul’s Kookmin University said on the swap deal. “I presume the Malaysians decided not to get too involved in a remote country’s palace intrigues, and wanted their hostages back.”

Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed nation.

Fearful of his half-brother’s regime, he spent the last few years living in exile in the Chinese territory of Macau, and his family has gone into hiding since the murder.


The nine Malaysians who had been trapped in Pyongyang arrived in Kuala Lumpur early Friday morning on board a small Bombardier business jet operated by the Malaysian air force.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Anan (third from right) with the nine Malaysian citizens who were previously stranded in Pyongyang as they return home. (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin)

Pilot Hasrizan Kamis said the crew dressed in civilian clothes as a “precautionary step” for the mission.

According to the Plane Finder tracking website the Bombardier took off from Pyongyang at the same time that the Malaysian Airlines flight MH360 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain, one of the returning diplomats, said it had been an anxious period but they “were not particularly harassed” by the North Korean authorities.

The episode, however, is likely to have cost North Korea one of its few friends.

“I think this relationship is going to go into cold storage for a very long time,” said Dennis Ignatius, a former Malaysian diplomat.

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Watch Dogs 2 – Launch Trailer [US]

After being wrongly profiled as a criminal risk by a citywide operating system, Marcus Holloway investigates to find rampant corporate corruption and manipulation of the public. Marcus and his group of hackers, DedSec, wage a war to take down the system and return power to the people.

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About Watch_Dogs 2
Watch_Dogs 2 is an open world action-adventure game where the San Francisco Bay Area is your living playground and hacking is your weapon to bend the city – and its people – to your will. Step into the shoes of Marcus Holloway, a brilliant hacker, and journey to pull off the Hack of the Century: a crippling shutdown of ctOS 2.0, an invasive technology used by the powerful to silently control everyday citizens. Watch_Dogs 2 will be available on PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and Windows PC on November 15, 2016.

Explore a massive and dynamic open world offering an incredible variety of gameplay possibilities. Hack your way through traffic while you engage in dangerous car chases through the winding streets of San Francisco, traverse the rooftops of the colorful and vibrant neighborhoods of Oakland, and infiltrate the cutting-edge offices of Silicon Valley companies. There are many secrets to uncover in the birthplace of the tech revolution.

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© 2016 Ubisoft Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. Watch Dogs, Ubisoft, and the Ubisoft logo are trademarks of Ubisoft Entertainment in the US and/or other countries.


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At Iraq camp, UN chief urges more aid for people of Mosul

HASAN SHAM CAMP: UN chief Antonio Guterres appealed on Friday (Mar 31) for more aid for the people of Mosul, as he visited a camp for Iraqis displaced by the battle to retake the second city from militants.

Iraq is nearly six months into the operation to oust the Islamic State group from its most populous bastion – a battle that has sparked major humanitarian concerns.

More than 200,000 civilians have fled IS-held west Mosul since last month, while the fighting has taken a devastating toll among the hundreds of thousands more still trapped in the battleground.

“We don’t have the resources that are necessary to support these people and we don’t have the international solidarity that is needed,” Guterres told journalists during a visit to the Hasan Sham Camp.

“Unfortunately, our programme here is only funded at eight percent. That shows how limited our resources are,” he said. “These people have suffered enormously, and they go on suffering. We need more solidarity from the international community.”

Guterres said there were not enough resources available to provide acceptable living conditions for the people of Mosul or for the reconciliation efforts that will need to follow when the city has been fully recaptured.

Whether or not real reconciliation occurs in Mosul and elsewhere will play a major role in determining whether Iraq moves towards stability or further violence.

Guterres is on the second day of a visit to Iraq, after meeting top officials, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, on Thursday.

As he began his visit in Baghdad, Guterres called for the protection of civilians to be the “absolute priority,” after the battle for Mosul resulted in numerous civilian deaths and widespread privation.


The UN said earlier this month that some 600,000 civilians were still in west Mosul, 400,000 of them trapped in siege-like conditions in the Old City.

Remaining in the city has posed deadly danger to residents, with the UN human rights office saying more than 300 civilians were killed in west Mosul in little over a month.

Gunfire, shelling, bombs and air strikes have all taken their toll.

The Iraqi government has sought to blame the militants for the deaths.

Spokesman Colonel Joe Scrocca too accused IS of attempting to bait the US-led coalition supporting the operation into carrying out strikes that would kill civilians in order “to take advantage of the public outcry and the terror.”

Scrocca said the number of militants remaining in Mosul had fallen significantly since Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake the west of the city last month, down from an estimated 2,000 to less than half that now.

Iraqi authorities say more than 200,000 civilians have fled the fighting since mid-February.

Camps have been set up around the city to provide shelter for the displaced, while others are staying with relatives, renting accommodation or residing in makeshift shelters or unfinished buildings.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul in October, retaking its east side in January before setting their sites on the smaller but more densely populated west.

The fighting has inflicted heavy casualties on the Iraqi security forces, according to the head of US Central Command, General Joseph Votel.

Votel told a congressional committee that 490 Iraqi security personnel were killed and more than 3,000 wounded in the battle for east Mosul, while 284 have been killed and more than 1,600 wounded in fighting for the west.

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Apple iPhone 5c GSM Unlocked Cellphone, 16GB, Pink

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The iPhone 5c puts all of the features of the iPhone 5 into a completely new design colorful unibody shell that feels great in your hand. It features 4G LTE data, high resolution 4-inch display, Siri voice assistant, AirPlay media streaming, 8-megapixel main camera plus 1.2MP HD front camera. This iPhone 5c is also equipped with 16 GB storage, WiFi, Bluetooth compatibility, multi-format music player, and quadband GSM and WCDMA modes for international use.

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Malaysians stranded in North Korea on their way home: Najib

KUALA LUMPUR: Nine Malaysians who had been stranded in North Korea for three weeks have left Pyongyang and are expected to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at about 5am on Friday (Mar 31), Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Thursday evening.

Their flight took off at 7.45pm Malaysian time, he said. Channel NewsAsia understands the Malaysians will be flying home escorted by the Royal Malaysian Air Force. 

The Malaysians have been barred from leaving North Korea since Mar 7 amid a row over the killing of Kim Jong Nam at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13. North Korean diplomats and embassy officials in Malaysia were also barred from leaving the country in what appeared to be a tit-for-tat move.  

In his statement on Thursday, Mr Najib said the Malaysian government “worked intensively behind the scenes to achieve this successful outcome”. “Many challenges were overcome to ensure the return of our fellow Malaysians. The safety and security of our citizens will always be my first priority,” he added.

Mr Najib said North Koreans in Malaysia are now free to leave the country. 

He also said the coroner has approved the release of Kim’s body, “following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea”. 

Earlier on Thursday, local media reported that a van carrying Kim’s embalmed body was seen entering MASkargo at KLIA around 3pm and that it was due to arrive in Beijing. 

Four North Koreans are also believed to be departing the Malaysian capital, reports said. A source told Channel NewsAsia they include two men wanted for Kim’s murder.

A van believed to be carrying the body of Kim Jong Nam leaves the Kuala Lumpur Hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo: Kyodo/via Reuters)

Mr Najib had earlier said the country was in “sensitive talks” with North Korea. 

On Thursday, he said: “The government believes strongly in the principles of justice and sovereignty. Our police investigation into this serious crime on Malaysian soil will continue. I have instructed for all possible measures to be taken to bring those responsible for this murder to justice.”

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ASIA'S FUTURE CITIES: Cambodian start-up introduces anti-pollution masks

PHNOM PENH: Every day, millions of people in Phnom Penh fill their lungs with bad air.

Whenever they breathe – roughly about 30,000 times a day for an adult – their respiratory system becomes exposed to harmful pollutants hovering over the city.

Some of them can be felt or smelled, but many are so fine they can reach the deepest parts of the lungs undetected and have the potential to cause premature death.

“It’s like you eat the same poison every single day; you don’t feel it now but you will later,” said Veasna Srey, a Cambodian-born French from Toulouse who repatriated to Phnom Penh last year.

During the first few months after his return, Veasna struggled to breathe and his partner suffered from bronchitis, an inflammation of the air passages. Their symptoms were a result of prolonged exposure to air pollutants in Phnom Penh, from toxic gases like carbon monoxide to small particles such as PM2.5 – one of the deadliest forms of air pollution.

A PM2.5 is tiny. It has a diametre of less than 2.5 micrometres or about 3 per cent the diametre of a human hair. This means it can penetrate deep inside the lungs, where it either remains for long periods or passes into the blood stream unfiltered. Long-term exposure to these particles can result in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and cancers.

A lot of them fill Phnom Penh’s air but only a handful of millions of its residents know they exist. So when Veasna searched for an anti-pollution mask that can filter these harmful particles in the city last year, he found none.

“I only found surgical masks but they’re not the same. It’s like using a cap instead of a helmet. So, I decided to import anti-pollution masks with proper filters from abroad.”

PM2.5 particles have a diametre of less than 2.5 micrometres or about 3 per cent the diametre of a human hair. (Photo: United States Environmental Protection Agency)

As it turned out, the bad air has created a window of opportunity for the couple. Their fruitless search for effective anti-pollution masks made them realise there was none in the polluted city, and subsequently drove them to provide some for local Cambodians.

Still, the high cost of imported masks – more than US$50 apiece – means many people will never be able to afford the protection.

“So I researched about air pollution and started making the masks from scratch,” Veasna told Channel NewsAsia.

His Cambodian start-up KamasK came up with two affordable designs he now sells for US$8 and US$10. One of them can trap fine PM2.5 such as combustion particles, organic compounds and metals, while the other can capture PM0.1 – even finer particles.

Anti-pollution masks produced by Veasna can trap ultrafine airborne particles. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

They are the first of their kind to be made by a Cambodian company, according to Veasna. The filter contains carbon active charcoal and micro fibres that can be worn for 70 hours, and cost an additional US$6-7 for a pack of three.

“Our goal is to make them cheap for Cambodians. I might have grown up in France but I was born Cambodian. So I want to help Cambodians protect themselves,” Veasna said.

“I plan to make them even cheaper when we can produce more.”


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average annual concentrations of PM2.5 in a city should not exceed 10 microgrammes per cubic metre of air (μg/m3).

In the Cambodian capital, however, WHO’s data shows they can go up to 25 μg/m3 annually. And of 180 countries worldwide, its air quality ranks 148th in the Environmental Performance Index, indicative of a gradual downward trend over the past decade.

Grime built up on a building in Phnom Penh. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Cambodia’s air pollution may seem worrisome but for its own government, it is not a major concern.

Based on the national air quality standard set by the government itself, levels of dust and air pollution in Phnom Penh are not considered unhealthy.

“Air pollution in Phnom Penh has increased but the level is still acceptable,” said Thiv Sophearith, director of the Environment Ministry’s Air Quality and Noise Management Department.

But for many of its residents, it is not good enough. On the street, many riders wear masks to stop airborne pollutants from entering their lungs. However, most of them are surgical masks, which are not designed to filter fine particles such as PM2.5.

And as the city presses ahead with fast paced development, with more construction and pollutants in the air, there are increasing risks of worsening air quality and subsequent impacts on public health.

Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 air pollutants can result in respiratory diseases and premature death. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

According to WHO, about 92 per cent of the global population is breathing polluted air and Southeast Asia is one of the regions with the highest air pollution levels in the world.

In 2012, air pollution contributed to 6.5 million deaths worldwide, including 7,000 in Cambodia. Some of the main causes included industrial activities, household fuel and waste burning, and inefficient modes of transport.

“What we’re mostly concerned about is vehicles because they’ve increased very fast. It’s the biggest challenge we’re facing,” Sophearith told Channel NewsAsia, adding the environment ministry will work with the transport ministry in monitoring and minimising pollution caused by transportation.

But until actions are implemented, the residents of Phnom Penh may need to rely on whatever masks they can afford.

“Masks are not the solution to air pollution,” Veasna said. “They’re like life jackets to help people save themselves.”

Follow Pichayada Promchertchoo on Twitter @PichayadaCNA

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Apple iPhone 4 (MD440LL/A) – 8GB Smartphone – White – Locked Verizon CDMA (Certified Refurbished)

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This Apple iPhone 4 is a follow-up to the popular 3GS model and features a high-resolution 3.5-inch display, 5 megapixel camera with LED flash, and HD video recording. This iPhone 4 also features a front facing camera, full web browser, WiFi, Bluetooth compatibility, multi-format music player, GPS, and 8 GB of internal memory.This Certified Refurbished product has been tested and certified to work and look like new, with minimal to no signs of wear, by a specialized third-party seller approved by Amazon. The product is backed by a minimum 90-day warranty, and may arrive in a generic brown or white box. Accessories may be generic and not directly from the manufacturer.
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8GB internal storage – 1 GHz Cortex-A8 CPU – 512 MB RAM

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Australia to begin evacuating cyclone-hit island resorts

SYDNEY: Emergency services plan to evacuate thousands of people stranded on resort islands with water supplies running low in Australia’s tropical northeast on Thursday (Mar 30), two days after Cyclone Debbie tore through the region.

Tens of thousands more people on the mainland remained without power and many regions were cut off by flooding as officials warned that more heavy rainfall was on the way.

“The rain is coming, significant rain,” Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Mark Roche told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

Cyclone Debbie struck on Tuesday, smashing tourist resorts, flattening canefields and shutting down coal mines in Queensland state as a category four storm, one rung below the most dangerous wind speed level.

The storm, now downgraded to a tropical low, continued to track over Queensland’s central interior in a southeasterly direction on Thursday, slowing attempts by the army and emergency workers to start what is expected to be a lengthy clean-up operation.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is due to tour the region later on Thursday with tourism and agriculture expected to take a major hit from the storm.

Resorts along the world-famous Great Barrier Reef and coastal areas bore the brunt of the storm with wind gusts stronger than 260 kph (160 mph).

Pictures from Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach showed streets stacked with snapped trees, roof tiles and furniture, with wrecked yachts washed ashore.

People walk past damaged shops after Cyclone Debbie hit Airlie Beach. (AAP/Dan Peled/via REUTERS)

The naval ship HMAS Choules was on its way up to the Whitsunday Islands with food supplies and special equipment to begin repairing and rebuilding infrastructure.

In the Bowen Basin, the world’s single largest source of coal used to make steel, BHP Billiton, Glencore, and Stanmore Coal all said work at mines there was halted until further notice. Analysts said Debbie could push coking coal prices higher.

Hundreds of hectares of sugarcane crops had been flattened and Wilmar said its sugar mills were stilled at Proserpine and Sarina.

One woman, a tourist, died on Monday in a car crash that police said was due to wild weather on Debbie’s approach. Another two people were injured as the storm passed through.

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