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Floods force thousands to evacuate in Indonesian capital

By Kanupriya Kapoor JAKARTA (Reuters) - Monsoon rains have inundated parts of the Indonesian capital, forcing more than 30,000 people to evacuate and posing a challenge for its wildly popular governor, Joko Widodo, a possible presidential candidate. Soldiers were deployed to help nearly 50,000 residents in the sprawling city of 10 million people, as floodwaters reached three meters (9.8 ft) in some districts, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said.

Malaysia probes priest for sedition in 'Allah' row

Authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia are investigating a Catholic priest for sedition in an escalating religious row over the use of the word "Allah", an official said Thursday. A court in October barred the Malaysian Catholic newspaper Herald from using "Allah" to refer to the Christian God in its Malay-language edition. The verdict was welcomed by Muslim conservatives but raised concerns among Christians, a minority in the multi-faith country who say the practice of their religion is increasingly under threat.

Indonesia candidate tells US no tolerance for extremism

With Indonesia preparing for elections in the new year, one underdog candidate is promoting himself in the United States as a president who would crack down on Islamist extremists. The United States has taken a growing interest in Indonesia, with President Barack Obama -- who spent part of his childhood in Jakarta -- seeing the world's largest Muslim-majority country as a ideal partner due to its embrace of democracy and its historically moderate brand of Islam.

Indonesia, Malaysia agree to seek ASEAN unity on spying

Indonesia and Malaysia agreed Thursday to seek unity among countries of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to say no to spying activities by one country on another. "We agreed to urge ASEAN countries to unite in saying no against any spying activities," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a press conference after meeting visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Japan to extend fresh aid of 63 bil. yen in loans to Myanmar

Japan pledged fresh aid worth about 63 billion yen in loans to Myanmar on Sunday, mainly to help the Southeast Asian country's infrastructure-building projects. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled the aid during talks at his office in Tokyo with Myanmar's President Thein Sein, who came to Japan to attend the regional summit between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Malaysia's once-nomadic Penan caught between two worlds

Through eons spent roaming Borneo's rainforests, Malaysia's Penan people became supremely adapted to surviving, and thriving, in the wild. But that has left the Penan -- keepers of a rapidly-disappearing semi-nomadic culture -- equally unprepared for the transition to a modern world that is closing in fast. "Under the old ways we could do whatever we wanted and easily find what we need in the forest," said Dau Labong, headwoman of the ramshackle settlement of Long Keluan in the rugged interior of Sarawak, Malaysia's largest and wildest state.

Myanmar president calls for national unity to build prosperous nation

Myanmar president calls for national unity to build prosperous nation YANGON, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar President U Thein Sein Thursday called for national unity to build a nation of prosperity, upholding nationalist spirit showed in 1300 Uprising. U Thein Sein made the call in his message to a ceremony marking the Diamond Jubilee of 1300 historic Oil Field Uprising,

Thai military leaders to consider meeting protest leaders

Thai military leaders to consider meeting protest leaders BANGKOK, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's top military brass will discuss on Thursday whether to meet with anti-government protest leaders, a meeting they earlier dismissed as dangerous, a military spokesman said. The supreme commander is expected to discuss the matter with each of the armed forces commanders, said deputy army spokesman Winthai Suwari, quoted by the Bangkok Post.

Cambodian PM heads for Japan, 4 deals planned to be inked

Cambodian PM heads for Japan, 4 deals planned to be inked PHNOM PENH, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen left here on Thursday for a week-long visit to Japan and the two countries are expected to sign four deals including defense cooperation, a senior official said. One of them is the memorandum on defense cooperation and exchanges between the two countries' defense ministries," said Srey Thamarong, minister attached to the prime minister, at the airport before departure.

Myanmar sets free 41 more remaining political prisoners

Myanmar sets free 41 more remaining political prisoners YANGON, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- A total of 41 more remaining prisoners of conscience in Myanmar were released Wednesday from prisons across the country under a fresh amnesty order of President U Thein Sein, according to official sources. Myanmar last freed 69 prisoners of conscience on Nov. 15 under an amnesty order of the president. The government has promised to release all political prisoners by this year-end.
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