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Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani meets Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt, June 2022.

Amiri Diwan via Reuters

Hard Numbers: Egypt-Qatar bonding, Thai activist jailed for dressing up, Hungary's ‘fetal heartbeat’ law, fatal kangaroo incident, Ken Starr dies

5: Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah-el Sisi visited Qatar on Tuesday for the first time in five years. In 2017, Egypt – along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain – cut diplomatic ties with Doha, citing its support for terror groups, which Qatar denied. Mired in an economic crisis, Cairo now wants to boost economic ties with Qatar and other wealthy Gulf states.

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Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand.

REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

What We're Watching: Thai PM suspended, US strikes Iran in Syria, Macron woos Algeria

Thai PM in limbo

On Wednesday, Thailand's top court suspended PM Prayuth Chan-ocha while it decides whether his term in office started when he took over in a 2014 coup or when he was “elected” five years later. If the court decides the former, Prayuth would be removed for exceeding the constitutional limit of eight years in power. Such a verdict would likely fire up the youth-led protests demanding his resignation, which started with a bang in 2020 but soon ended with a whimper following a crackdown on their leaders for questioning the role of the monarchy. The ruling drops in two weeks, and until then Prayuth's deputy — who also took part in the 2014 power grab — is in charge. Fun fact: the eight-year limit was put in place by the military to target deposed former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, whose sister Yingluck was ousted by Prayuth. Guess who's likely running for PM in the next election? Thaksin's millenial daughter, Paetongtarn.

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A Rohingya refugee family rests in a temporary shelter after a fire destroyed a Rohingya refugee camp in New Delhi, India.

Reuters

Hard Numbers: Rohingya unwelcome in Delhi, Thailand’s forgotten battle, Abbas under fire, the few remaining anti-Trump Republicans

1,100: Hours after India’s Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs said that Rohingya refugees from Myanmar residing in New Delhi would be given free housing, Amit Shah – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s closest aide and a man known for his Hindu nationalist politics – said that the refugees would not be given apartments. Shah called the 1,100 Rohingya living in India’s capital “illegal migrants” and threatened to deport them.
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A protester wears a face mask with a sticker reading "Chase Prayuth" and raising the three-finger salute during a rally against the Thai PM.

Chaiwat Subprasom / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

Hard Numbers: Thais come clean on Pegasus, Salvadoran emergency extended, Tunisian pol questioned, Chinese boycott mortgages

30: Thailand admitted using the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to track phones in cases related to drugs or “national security.” The government reportedly also deployed Pegasus to spy on 30 activists linked to the ongoing youth-led mass protests against coup-leader-turned PM Prayuth Chan-ocha, which triggered a political earthquake by questioning the role of the monarchy.

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People hold signs and mock-up joints while celebrating World Cannabis Day in Bangkok.

Peerapon Boonyakiat / SOPA Image via Reuters Connect

Getting (legally) stoned in the Land of Smiles is … tricky

Thailand, famous for having some of the toughest anti-drug laws in the world, recently became the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis. Still, a tangle of laws — and messy domestic politics — make it unclear whether recreational use and possession will be prosecuted now, or in the future. Huh? We asked Eurasia Group analyst Peter Mumford to make sense of it all.

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Paetongtarn Shinawatra

Annie Gugliotta (image with CC license)

Can Thaksin rule again in Thailand?

Get ready for some major political trouble later this year in the Land of Smiles.

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of deposed former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, is mulling a run for her dad’s old job. Over the weekend, Paetongtarn — Thais go by their given name — got a lot of buzz at the assembly of Thaksin’s Pheu Thai Party, calling for a landslide victory in a snap election expected to be called in November.

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Captain Sidsore Kader Ouedraogo, centre, spokesman for the military government, with uniformed soldiers from the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration or MPSR, announces on a television studio that they have taken power in Burkina Faso.

Radio Television du Burkina (RTB)/Handout via EYEPRESS

What We’re Watching: Burkina Faso coup, China’s “pure” internet, Thailand decriminalizes weed

Another coup in volatile West Africa. Monday’s military coup in Burkina Faso is the fourth armed takeover of a West African government in just 17 months. As in neighboring countries like Mali — which has had not one but two coups since 2020 — it will be hard for outsiders, like the African Union and the regional group ECOWAS to reverse this assault on an elected government. Why? For one thing, al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated militant groups are winning battles with soldiers and killing civilians in barely governed parts of Burkina Faso. For another, more than 1.5 million of the country’s 21 million people have been forced from their homes since 2018. Street protests in major cities and mutinies in military bases have made clear in recent months just how unsustainable Burkina Faso’s security situation has become. Events in Mali, Niger, and Guinea have followed a worryingly similar pattern, and the Ivory Coast and Benin also face growing jihadist threats. We’ll be watching to see whether Burkina Faso’s junta has more success than the government it ousted in beating back jihadist attacks and restoring security to the country — and what happens if it doesn’t.

China's internet "purification" campaign. Xi Jinping doesn't like big celebrities — other than his famous singer wife — because they often show off their expensive lifestyles online, encouraging Chinese youth to worship money instead of the ruling Communist Party. That's why ahead of next week's Lunar New Year, the government plans to take down celebrity fan groups and censor influencers whom Xi regards as "unpatriotic." What's more, minors will no longer be allowed to become online influencers. The campaign is part of Xi's broader "common prosperity" vision to combat rising wealth inequality in China, which has prompted a surge of charitable giving by tycoons, especially tech billionaires. It has also canceled celebrities who flaunted their wealth or embarrassed the CCP by doing things like visiting a Tokyo shrine that holds the remains of World War II criminals, acquiring foreign citizenship, or using a surrogate to have a baby born in the US. Keep all of this in mind if you're an aspiring influencer in China.

Thai stoners rejoice. On Tuesday, Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis by dropping it from its list of banned substances. This is a very big deal for a country known for some of the world’s toughest anti-drug laws, including the death penalty for anyone caught with even small amounts of certain narcotics. Still, a tangle of laws related to cannabis leaves unclear whether recreational use and possession will be prosecuted. For now, the percentage of THC — the psychoactive compound in cannabis that makes you high — must be under 0.2 percent. In recent years, Thailand has relaxed its policy on so-called soft drugs, first legalizing medical marijuana and later kratom, a popular plant-based mild stimulant and painkiller. But the country still has a big problem with addiction to hard drugs — especially yaba (crazy pill), a highly addictive combination of methamphetamine and caffeine sourced from the lawless border areas of neighboring Myanmar.

Hard Numbers: Pakistan’s mosque mandate, Morrison banned from WeChat, Thai PM visits Saudi, Bitcoin tumbles

46: Facing an omicron wave, Pakistani authorities have announced that only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to enter mosques. In Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city, almost half of people tested for COVID (46 percent) are returning positive results.

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