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Pentagon Reenters Thai Air Base

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    HELPING DISASTER VICTIMS: How Can I Help? http://www.islamonline.net/english/In_Depth/DisasterVictims/Articles/ 06.shtml ==================================
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2005
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      HELPING DISASTER VICTIMS: How Can I Help?
      http://www.islamonline.net/english/In_Depth/DisasterVictims/Articles/
      06.shtml

      ==================================
      They never miss a trick, do they?

      "The Pentagon said Tuesday that it is establishing a
      command center at Utapao, Thailand, to support the
      tsunami emergency relief effort and to serve as a
      staging base for U.S. military and rescue aircraft."



      Tsunami Relief as a Subterfuge?
      The Pentagon Scrambles to Reenter its Old Thai Air Base
      by Sirinapha
      IMC-DC
      29 Dec 2004
      http://dc.indymedia.org/feature/display/111903/index.php

      Is the tsunami aftermath a "window of opportunity" for
      bolstering the Pentagon's presence in Southeast Asia?
      The Thai people reject the proposed build-up of the
      American military at Utapao air base and in the Gulf
      of Thailand. The tragedy of the natural catastrophe in
      the Indian Ocean should not serve as a pretext for
      strengthening the U.S. military presence on land, sea
      and in the air in the region.


      ---
      photo:
      http://images.indymedia.org/imc/washingtondc/media/image/2/111903_111
      896_a_sac_utapao.jpeg
      ---


      #file_1#

      The Pentagon has announced it is returning to its old
      Vietnam War haunts at Utapao Royal Thai Naval Air
      Force Base 90 miles south of Bangkok on the Gulf of
      Thailand. In this clear escalation of the American
      military presence in Southeast Asia, the ostensible
      plan is to set up a "command center" for the tsunami
      emergency relief effort. Utapao air base will serve as
      a staging base for U.S. military and rescue aircraft.
      The emergency relief operations appear to provide a
      windfall opportunity for beefing up the American
      military presence in Southeast Asia, part of the
      expanding Pentagon strategy of "forward positioning,"
      establishing sites, so-called "air cargo hubs," where
      American forces can stash equipment and enter and
      leave as desired.

      During the Vietnam War, Utapao functioned from April
      1967 as a major staging base for B-52s carrying out
      bombing raids over North Vietnam, and KC-35
      stratotankers of the Strategic Air Command. Many
      American GIs served there [1].

      #file_2#

      Despite Thailand's neutrality on the war in Iraq, Thai
      Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra allowed Utapao to be
      used by American warplanes flying into combat in Iraq
      last year, and into Afghanistan earlier. There is also
      speculation that Utapao, with its infamous facilities
      for 'sophisticated interrogation' (a military heirloom
      from the Vietnam era), is probably where various
      al-Qaeda suspects have been secretly grilled.

      The command center will be largely operated by the 3rd
      Marine Expeditionary Force. The naval air base, also
      now functioning as a local airport, is located a short
      drive from the tourist mega-center of Pattaya, whose
      roots also go back to the Vietnam era. The U. S. Navy
      is also dispatching the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier
      strike group and the USS Bonhomme Richard
      expeditionary strike group to the immediate area
      offshore [2].

      Is all this military redeployment to bolster
      'humanitarian aid' efforts? The Thai people reject a
      build-up of the American military at Utapao air base
      and in the Gulf of Thailand. In this hour of calamity,
      they are grateful for all support -- but not when
      tethered to a huge reentry by the Pentagon onto Thai
      soil. The tragedy of the present havoc in the Indian
      Ocean should not serve as a pretext for strengthening
      the U.S. military presence in this disaster-striken
      region.
      ___________________________________

      [1] For sites on Utapao air base and the American
      military, see
      http://amer-thai2001.tripod.com/id30.html ;
      http://www.utapao.org/ (Utapao Alumni Association) ;
      http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/utapao.htm

      [2] See "Hundreds of Americans Missing,"
      http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/12/28/us-quake.ap/index.html


      -

      http://dc.indymedia.org/feature/display/111903/index.php

      ======================
      Thailand's Muslim Riot Video



      Thai MP faces seven years in jail for airing Muslim riot video:
      police
      AFP
      Sunday December 19, 2004
      http://sg.news.yahoo.com/041219/1/3pctc.html


      ---
      photo:
      Thai MP faces seven years in jail for airing Muslim
      riot video: police
      AFP Photo
      http://sg.news.yahoo.com/041219/1/3pctci.html
      ---


      A Thai opposition parliamentarian could face up to
      seven years in prison for airing a video showing
      security forces suppressing a riot which led to the
      deaths of 87 Muslim protesters.

      Democrat MP Thanin Jaisamut has been called in for
      questioning and will be arrested if he denies showing
      the video of the Tak Bai tragedy while campaigning in
      the restive south this month, said police in the
      southern district of Langu.

      "The video is a violation of national security," Langu
      police chief Chote Chaichompoo told AFP, adding Thanin
      could spend up to seven years in jail if charged and
      convicted of the crime of "violating national
      security".

      Thai authorities have urged opposition politicians to
      stop publicising videos showing security forces
      suppressing a riot at Tak Bai near the border with
      Malaysia, saying the images damaged national unity.

      The October 25 Tak Bai riot led to the deaths of at
      least 87 Muslim protesters, most of whom died from
      suffocation after being detained, bound and piled into
      the backs of army trucks. The tragedy sparked an
      international outcry.

      Video from the riot in the Muslim-dominated southern
      province of Narathiwat emerged on the open market
      recently. Officials have reportedly accused
      politicians of doctoring the footage to tarnish the
      government's reputation before national elections next
      February 6.

      Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has slammed the
      video saying its distribution could lead to further
      division within the kingdom, which is mainly Buddhist.

      A government appointed independent commission on
      Friday implicated three senior officials in the
      deaths, but said the tragedy was due to officials
      mishandling the situation and not to deliberate acts
      to kill or harm protesters.

      Muslims represent about five percent of the
      overwhelmingly Buddhist population but have long
      complained of discrimination.

      The riot came as a separatist insurgency was rekindled
      in January and has since claimed more than 560 lives.

      http://sg.news.yahoo.com/041219/1/3pctc.html


      ---


      (2)

      Rights probe blames senior Thai officials for Muslim
      deaths
      AFP
      Saturday December 18, 2004
      http://sg.news.yahoo.com/041218/1/3pcdy.html


      ---
      photo:
      Rights probe blames senior Thai officials for Muslim
      deaths
      AFP Photo
      http://sg.news.yahoo.com/041218/1/3pcdyi.html
      ---


      Three senior Thai officials have been blamed for the
      deaths of more than 80 Muslims in the kingdom's
      restive south by a human rights commission
      investigating the incident, media reported Saturday.

      The government-appointed independent commission
      focused on the events of October 25, when security
      forces broke up a riot in southern Narathiwat, one of
      three provinces bearing the brunt of an Islamist
      insurgency that has left more than 560 people dead
      this year.

      At least 87 Muslim protesters died, including 78 in
      custody. Most suffocated after being bound and piled
      into the backs of army trucks.

      "Among those responsible are Fourth Army Region
      commander Lt-General Pisarn Wattanawongkeeree,
      assistant national police chief Lt-General Wongkot
      Maneerin and Interior Ministry deputy permanent
      secretary Siva Saengmanee," commission chairman Pichet
      Soonthornpipit was quoted as saying in the Nation
      newspaper.

      He said the deaths were due to officials mishandling
      the situation and not to deliberate acts to kill or
      harm protesters and warned some other unnamed senior
      figures also shared the burden of responsibility.

      The incident sparked widespread international concern
      and accusations that the government had used excessive
      force to quell the riot.

      Human rights groups have charged that the detained
      protesters were stacked onto the backs of flat-bed
      military trucks, occasionally five deep, and
      suffocated on the hours-long journey to a military
      base.

      The commission has not indicated what action should be
      taken towards officials implicated in its report,
      which Pichet said was unlikely to be made available to
      the public in its full-form.

      Apart from the 78 who died during transport, he said
      seven protesters were shot during the breakup of the
      riot, while seven others were missing.

      Video of the riot suppression has emerged in Thailand.
      The government has accused opposition MPs of publicly
      screening the footage to gain political capital before
      elections next February.

      Thailand's sporadic separatist insurgency sparked back
      into life in January and since then Buddhists,
      officials and security forces have been targeted by
      militants.

      Muslims represent about five percent of the
      overwhelmingly Buddhist population but have long
      complained of discrimination.

      http://sg.news.yahoo.com/041218/1/3pcdy.html

      =============================
      Islamic Relief Busy In Indonesia

      HELPING DISASTER VICTIMS: How Can I Help?
      http://www.islamonline.net/english/In_Depth/DisasterVictims/Articles/
      06.shtml

      ---


      Editorial: A crisis in Muslim lands
      An editorial
      Capital-Times (Madison, Wisconsin)
      December 30, 2004
      http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion/index.php?ntid=22876


      ---
      photo:
      A Muslim woman gives money to a volunteer collecting
      money for the relief of tsunami victims, at Ongole, in
      the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, on
      Thursday. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)
      http://www.madison.com/images/articles/tct/2004/12/30/11042_thumb.jpg
      ---


      The tsunamis that swept out from the epicenter of the
      historic earthquake near Indonesia did not make
      distinctions regarding the race, ethnicity or religion
      of their victims. Because the waves hit tourist areas,
      residents of dozens of countries outside the region
      were killed. But the greatest loss of lives so far,
      and the greatest potential threat of more losses in
      coming weeks, has been seen in countries where the
      dominant religions are Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.

      While there is a tendency to associate Islam with the
      Middle East, the country with the largest Muslim
      population in the world is Indonesia. And Indonesia
      has suffered horribly. The images that are beginning
      to emerge from the city of Banda Aceh, near the
      epicenter of the earthquake that caused the tsunamis,
      are horrifying. And Indonesian officials now estimate
      that, when all the victims are found, as many as
      50,000 people will have died in that country alone.

      As the details of this disaster become more clear, the
      devastation of another predominantly Muslim country is
      only now being revealed.

      The tsunamis whipped up by the largest earthquake the
      world has seen in 40 years reached all the way to the
      eastern coast of Africa. Now, according to the United
      Nations World Food Program, as many as 50,000 Somalis
      need immediate relief aid. Many are without shelter or
      food and clean water. U.N. aides who reached one of
      the towns on the Somali coast, Hafun, describe a scene
      of "total desolation."

      "The 4,500 inhabitants seem to have lost all their
      possessions," reports the World Food Program office.
      "Most of the houses in town have been destroyed.
      Personal belongings lay scattered around town. Boats
      are beached in the middle of town. Even money is
      strewn on the ground."Many public and private aid
      groups are rushing assistance to the region and to
      other devastated areas.

      But today we want to highlight the work of Islamic
      Relief USA. One of the most respected aid
      organizations in the United States, Islamic Relief USA
      has been awarded with a 4-star rating by Charity
      Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the
      country. Through its contacts with Islamic Relief
      Worldwide, it is well positioned to deliver aid in
      devastated regions with large Muslim populations.

      Already, an assessment team from Islamic Relief's
      Indonesia office has arrived in the region where the
      earthquake damage is most severe and is helping to
      coordinate relief efforts. The organization's partners
      in India have arrived in the hard-hit region of
      Chennai and are performing a needs assessment. The
      group's representative in Sri Lanka has put out the
      call for medical supplies, tents and sanitation
      facilities. And Islamic Relief, which already has
      charitable projects in place in Somalia, can be
      counted on to be in the forefront of efforts to
      provide emergency aid and long-term assistance there.

      Islamic Relief USA has set up a Southeast Asia
      Earthquake Emergency fund. To donate, send a
      contribution to the group at PO Box 6098, Burbank, CA
      91510. It is also possible to donate by phone with a
      call to 888-479-4968 or by going online to
      www.irw.org/asiaquake.

      http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion/index.php?ntid=22876

      =====

      Indonesia Needs Help, Death Toll Expected To Exceed
      400,000
      Bernama
      December 30, 2004
      http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v3/news_lite.php?id=111574

      KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 (Bernama) -- The death toll in
      Acheh, the region worst hit by last Sunday's tsunami,
      may exceed 400,000 as many affected areas could still
      not be reached for search and rescue operations,
      Indonesia's Ambassador to Malaysia Drs H. Rusdihardjo
      said Thursday.

      He said the estimate was based on air surveillance by
      Indonesian authorities who found no signs of life in
      places like Meulaboh, Pulau Simeulue and Tapak Tuan
      while several islands off the west coast of Sumatera
      had "disappeared".

      He said the latest death toll of more than 40,000 in
      Acheh and northern Sumatera did not take into account
      the figures from the other areas, especially in the
      west of the region.

      "Aerial surveillance found the town of Meulaboh
      completely destroyed with only one buiding standing.
      The building, which belonged to the military, happens
      to be on a hill," he told reporters after receiving
      RM1 million in aid for Indonesia's Tsunami Disaster
      Relief Fund here Thursday.

      Rusdihardjo said there were about 150,000 residents in
      Meulaboh, which was located 150km from the epicentre
      of the earthquake while Pulau Simeuleu had a
      population of 76,000.

      The contributions were from several corporate giants.

      Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), represented by
      Chairman Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, gave
      RM200,000; Guthrie, represented by Chief Executive
      Officer Datuk Abdul Wahab Maskan, gave RM200,000;
      Golden Hope Plantations Berhad, represented by Group
      Director for Corporate, Legal and Public Affairs
      Norlin Abdul Samad, gave RM200,000; Maybank,
      represented by Head of Public Affairs Wan Norhiyati
      Ibrahim, gave RM200,000 and Sime Darby Group's Motor
      Division, represented by Director Yip Jon Khiam, also
      gave RM200,000.

      Ahmad Sarji also handed over a PNB contribution to
      Utusan's Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund, which was
      received by Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Executive
      Chairman Tan Sri Hashim Makarudin to help Malaysian
      tsunami victims.

      Ambassador Rusdihardjo said a combination of
      earthquake and tsunami had left 80 to 100 per cent of
      infrastructure in Acheh province, such as hospitals,
      health centres, transport and communication networks
      and homes, destroyed.

      "Looking at the scale of destruction, it's difficult
      to say when the search and rescue operations can be
      mounted in all affected areas," he said.

      He said rescue efforts were hampered by transportation
      difficulties and lack of fuel.

      Rusdihardjo said that at this time international help,
      especially in the form of medicines, clean water, food
      and clothing, were desperately needed by Indonesia to
      aid survivors in Acheh.

      "Now we are worried about the outbreak of diseases
      such as cholera, the work of disposing corpses and the
      absence of clean water following the contamination of
      water sources," he said.

      It would take years before the situation returned to
      normal, he said, adding that the Indonesian government
      was not able to estimate losses caused by the tragedy
      as yet.

      He expressed his gratitude to Malaysia's help although
      the country itself was hit with 66 lives lost so far
      and property to the tune of millions of ringgit
      destroyed.

      "We are deeply touched," he said.

      Rusdihardjo said Indonesia was also seeking Malaysia's
      cooperation to mount search and rescue operations from
      its shores because of the close proximity of the two
      countries.

      -- BERNAMA

      http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v3/news_lite.php?id=111574

      =====

      5 000 000 displaced by tsunami
      AFP
      30/12/2004 09:07 - (SA)
      http://www.news24.com/News24/World/Tsunami_Disaster/0,,2-10-
      1777_1641426,00.html

      Hong Kong - Up to five million people have been
      displaced by the devastating tsunamis that pummelled
      large tracts of Asia over the weekend, the World
      Health Organisation said on Thursday.

      "We estimate that up to five million people have been
      displaced and are at risk across the region," Harsaran
      Pandey, spokesperson for the WHO in South Asia, said.

      The global health body said between one and three
      million of those affected were in Indonesia, with
      another one million in Sri Lanka. The rest were spread
      between India, the Maldives and other nations.

      The estimate was given five days after an earthquake
      of terrifying proportions sent towers of water
      crashing into 11 countries across Asia and Africa.

      More than 80 000 people are confirmed dead and the
      toll is expected to rise sharply with disease
      threatening the lives of survivors.

      http://www.news24.com/News24/World/Tsunami_Disaster/0,,2-10-
      1777_1641426,00.html

      ====

      "The State Department claimed to have notified India,
      but the Indian government said it received no such
      warning in the two hours that elapsed between the
      quake off Sumatra and the tidal wave that hit the
      Indian coastline in the southern province of Tamil
      Nadu. Nor did the Sri Lankan government receive a
      warning. But one Indian Ocean island was promptly
      warned—the US military base on the British-controlled
      island of Diego Garcia, the site from which US bombing
      raids have been staged on both Afghanistan and Iraq.
      The US base, about 1,000 miles south of India,
      directly in the path of the tsunami, reportedly
      suffered no damage."

      HOW CAN I HELP?
      http://www.islamonline.net/english/In_Depth/DisasterVictims/Articles/
      06.shtml


      ---


      Bush's response to South Asia disaster: indifference
      compounded by political incompetence
      By Patrick Martin
      30 December 2004
      http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/dec2004/bush-d30.shtml

      President Bush briefly interrupted his vacation on
      Wednesday to issue a public statement, after three
      days of silence as the greatest natural disaster of
      the last half-century unfolded on the television
      screens of the world. He made a perfunctory and
      semi-coherent statement to the press corps assembled
      at his Crawford, Texas ranch, shortly after the
      administration had announced a doubling of the US
      government's contribution to disaster relief efforts
      in South Asia.

      The initial US pledge of $15 million was widely
      derided in the international media—one commentary
      noted that this was less than the cost of a single
      F-16 fighter jet. It brought a pointed response by the
      emergency relief director for the United Nations, Jan
      Egeland, who criticized the "stingy" response of
      unnamed Western countries. The Scandinavian diplomat
      later denied he was referring to the United States,
      after the US Agency for International Development
      added another $20 million to the aid package.

      Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell was trundled
      out to rebut the charge that the US was ignoring the
      disaster. "The US is not stingy," Powell declared. "We
      are the greatest contributor to international relief
      efforts in the world." (He was silent on the fact that
      the two largest US-financed "relief" efforts, in Iraq
      and Afghanistan, are in support of stooge regimes
      established through the US conquest of sovereign
      countries).

      Even the increased $35 million contribution represents
      a minimal gesture, given the monumental scale of the
      tragedy and the enormous resources of the United
      States. The donation amounts to half a day's spending
      on the war in Iraq. It is less money than will be
      expended on the parties and official festivities
      surrounding Bush's January 20 inauguration.

      The US government relief effort can be measured by
      another yardstick—its response to the hurricanes that
      hit Florida this year. The Federal Emergency
      Management Agency alone has pumped $3.17 billion into
      the state, nearly 100 times more than the proposed US
      contribution for the South Asian tsunami. The four
      Florida hurricanes combined killed 116 people,
      compared to over 100,000 dead in the South Asian
      disaster. According to the brutal calculus of American
      imperialism, a human life in the United
      States—especially in a battleground state in the
      months before a presidential election—is worth
      infinitely more than a human life in Sri Lanka or
      Indonesia.

      Media criticism of the White House reached its peak in
      a front-page article published by the Washington Post
      December 29, only a few hours before Bush made his
      appearance in Crawford. The Post commented: "Skeptics
      said the initial aid sums—as well as Bush's decision
      at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for
      the Christmas holiday rather than speak in person
      about the tragedy—showed scant appreciation for the
      magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and
      rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri Lanka,
      India, Thailand and Indonesia."

      Noting the "international outpouring of support after
      the attacks on the World Trade Center and the
      Pentagon," the Post reported that "even some
      administration officials familiar with relief efforts
      said they were surprised that Bush had not appeared
      personally to comment on the tsunami tragedy. `It's
      kind of freaky,' a senior career official said."

      Here the Post gave expression to concerns within the
      state apparatus itself, not so much with Bush's
      indifference to the loss of life, but with his
      inability to conceal this attitude behind the
      humanitarian posturing typical of more skilled
      spokesmen for imperialism, like British Prime Minister
      Blair or former President Bill Clinton.

      Bush hardly dispelled this concern with his comments
      to the press corps. His remarks were delivered in a
      fashion that suggested the president could hardly wait
      to get back to more pressing tasks—such as bicycling
      and "clearing brush," two of his major activities at
      the Crawford ranch.

      Bush declared his support for the construction of a
      worldwide warning system against natural disasters
      like the earthquake and tsunami, modeled on the one
      already built by the United States, Japan and other
      wealthy countries to cover the Pacific basin. He was
      not asked why no such network yet exists, although the
      total cost of a worldwide alert system is estimated at
      only $150 million—a comparative pittance, less than
      the cost of four days of war in Iraq.

      There is already evidence that the US government had
      ample warning of the earthquake-driven tsunami, but
      did not communicate the information to the countries
      involved. US press reports indicate that the Pacific
      Warning Center in Hawaii, a facility of the National
      Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, detected the
      earthquake when it occurred and immediately warned of
      the likelihood of tidal waves generated by one of
      largest temblors ever recorded.

      Charles McCreery, director of the center, confirmed
      that his team had transmitted warnings to the US Navy,
      the US State Department and the government of
      Australia. The State Department claimed to have
      notified India, but the Indian government said it
      received no such warning in the two hours that elapsed
      between the quake off Sumatra and the tidal wave that
      hit the Indian coastline in the southern province of
      Tamil Nadu. Nor did the Sri Lankan government receive
      a warning.

      But one Indian Ocean island was promptly warned—the US
      military base on the British-controlled island of
      Diego Garcia, the site from which US bombing raids
      have been staged on both Afghanistan and Iraq. The US
      base, about 1,000 miles south of India, directly in
      the path of the tsunami, reportedly suffered no
      damage.

      Bush's press statement in Crawford did contain one
      indisputable truth. "This has been a terrible
      disaster," Bush said. "It is beyond our
      comprehension."

      The speechwriter who crafted those words revealed more
      about Bush than he perhaps intended. This failure to
      grasp the dimensions of the south Asian disaster—and
      anticipate the public reaction to a display of
      indifference—is a measure of the moral and
      intellectual cretinism of Bush and his cohorts.

      The administration's callous and barely concealed
      indifference to the suffering of millions of people
      says a great deal about the corrupt oligarchy whose
      interests it serves. The Bush administration, and the
      occupant of the White House himself, are body and soul
      the creatures of a ruling elite that has descended
      into criminality and unbridled greed.

      The New York Times, for example, found nothing
      untoward in publishing on the front page of its
      December 28 edition articles and photographs on the
      death and devastation in South Asia alongside a
      lighthearted report on the multi-million-dollar
      Christmas bonuses awarded by Wall Street firms to
      their top executives ("That Line at the Ferrari
      Dealer? It's Bonus Season on Wall Street").

      If great events take the true measure of men, the
      enormous tragedy on the shores of the Indian Ocean has
      provided another yardstick of the vicious and
      small-minded man who occupies the White House. Bush
      personifies the ignorant and reactionary character of
      American imperialism.

      See Also:
      Tsunami death toll rises to 60,000 amid warnings of
      epidemics [29 December 2004]
      http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/dec2004/tsun-d29.shtml
      Devastating tidal wave kills more than 13,000 in
      southern Asia [27 December 2004]
      http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/dec2004/tsun-d27.shtml

      -

      http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/dec2004/bush-d30.shtml

      ==========
      Prayers Replace New Year's Eve Joys in Malaysia
      Islam Online
      December 29, 2004
      http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-12/29/article04.shtml


      ---
      photos:

      "Let us also pray that that those facing hardship will
      have the fortitude to overcome their losses," Badawi
      said.

      http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-12/29/images/pic04.jpg

      Badawi, center, during his visit to the
      tsunami-stricken village of Permatang Damar Laut in
      Penang. (AFP)

      http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-12/29/images/pic04a.jpg

      Rescue personnel conduct a search for victims of
      tsunami tidal waves near the beach in Penang.
      http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-12/29/images/pic04b.jpg
      ---


      SUNGAI PETANI, Malaysia, December 29 (IslamOnline.net
      & News Agencies) – Expressing his country's readiness
      to offer relief aid and work with other Asian
      countries to come up with warning systems, Malaysian
      prime minister Abdullah Badawi declared Wednesday, 29
      December that prayers for the thousands of Asian
      victims will, this year, replace celebrations, to
      usher in the new year.

      The government would cancel all entertainment programs
      on New Year's Eve in respect for the victims, Badawi
      said during a visit to Kampung Kepala Jalan, Kota
      Kuala Muda here during a tour of the tsunami-hit
      areas, according to Bernama News Agency.

      "We will replace it with a day of prayers. We will
      pray that the country will not face such a problem
      again. I appeal to all races to pray in their own way
      so that Malaysia will be a peaceful and vibrant
      country."

      Badawi, who cut short a European holiday to return
      home following the disaster, hoped that through the
      prayers, the country would be protected from future
      disasters and tragedies.

      "Let us also pray that that those facing hardship
      (following the tsunami) will have the fortitude to
      overcome their losses," he said.

      "We hope that those who have suffered damage and loss
      of livelihood will strive even harder to ensure that
      their sources of income are restored."

      The Prime Minister also called on mosques throughout
      the country to conduct sermons related to the
      catastrophic event and to reach out to the tsunami
      victims to help them overcome their grief and
      hardship.

      As for Non-Muslims, Abdullah called on them to also
      pray for whatever would be for the best of the people
      and the country according to their own practices and
      beliefs.

      Aid Increased

      During the visit, the Prime Minister announced that he
      agreed with the proposal by Second Finance Minister
      Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop for aid to the tsunami
      victims be increased, Bernama said.

      He said that for every house damaged, an additional
      payment of RM2,000 would be given while RM5,000 would
      be given for every house which was destroyed.
      Fishermen whose lost their boats will be given RM1,000
      for smaller boats and RM3,000 for bigger boats.

      Abdullah also thanked the mainstream newspapers which
      had organised a fund-raising drive for the tsunami
      victims and praised the generosity of Malaysians
      during difficult times.

      He said that the assistance would be disbursed
      according to a fair and just formula to avoid any
      problem in the future. He also called on the victims
      to provide accurate information including their
      addresses, identity card numbers and other
      particulars.

      Badawi also asked government agencies to hand out
      assistance as quickly as possible, adding that aid
      would not be the same for all the victims or their
      next-of-kin because the assessment would be based on
      the sustained loss of life or loss of property.

      The Malaysian Premier urged donors to channel their
      contributions directly to the committees set up in the
      areas hit by the tsunami Sunday. This was to avoid any
      unfair distribution of the aid, the prime minister
      said.

      He said that he was not questioning the motive of the
      donors but if the disbursement was not done properly,
      the good intention would turn bad and unfairness would
      cause dissatisfaction besides marring the good
      intention.

      "As such, channel the aid directly to the committees
      that have been set up because only these committees
      know who are eligible for aid," he said at the
      presentation of aid to Kuala Muda residents whose
      loved ones perished in the tsunami, at Sekolah
      Menengah Kebangsaan Kota Kuala Muda.

      Badawi, chosen along with his Turkish counterpart by
      this week's edition of the Newsweek Magazine as
      "shining examples of Muslim leaders" [
      http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-12/27/article05.shtml
      ], also urged the police to step up security in the
      affected areas following reports of items missing from
      the victims' houses.

      On the health aspect, he hoped that the relevant
      parties like the Health Department would act fast to
      provide the vaccinations and medications needed by the
      victims to prevent the spread of diseases.

      "Miracle Baby"

      Malaysia can lay claim to be the "miracle baby" of
      Sunday's disaster that began with a massive earthquake
      off Indonesia and triggered a tidal wave that killed
      tens of thousands of people in eight Asian countries,
      Agence France-Presse (AFP) said.

      Although it lies closer to the epicenter of the
      earthquake, Malaysia suffered far fewer deaths than
      other countries. But families have still been ripped
      apart and homes destroyed.

      Most of the 65 deaths Malaysia suffered were on the
      resort island of Penang.

      Abdullah said many people had asked him if the
      authorities could have warned the public about the
      tsunami.

      "We never expected this huge wave. We never
      experienced this before," he said.

      Malaysia was spared the worst of the waves because it
      was sheltered by Sumatra island which bore the brunt,
      experts say.

      http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-12/29/article04.shtml

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