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Thailand's newly appointed Foreign Minister Maris Sangiampongsa reacts during a family photo session with new cabinet ministers at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, May 7, 2024.

REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

US ally Thailand moves forward with BRICS membership

On Sunday, Thailand said Foreign Minister Maris Sangiampongsa had delivered an official letter to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, outlining Bangkok’s intention to join the BRICS alliance, which has gained a reputation as an anti-Western forum in recent years. Thailand holds non-NATO major ally status with the United States, but Maris said it hopes joining the Chinese- and Russian-led group will help it “play a more active role in South-South cooperation.” Things may not come together by the next BRICS summit in October, but Bangkok’s bid is likely to work out.

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Students at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens

Kyle Mazza / SOPA Images via Reuters

Hard Numbers: Segregation is back, Thai activist dies in jail, French “Fly” freed, New US arms sale to Israel

19.8: Over the past three decades, the share of US public schools where 90% of the students are non-white has nearly tripled to 19.8%, according to a UCLA report. Experts say the rise of charter schools and expansion of school choice is partly to blame for this de facto segregation. The data, crunched by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, come on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the landmark Brown vs. Boardof Education case in which the US Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation at schools.

110: A young Thai activist jailed for demanding reform of the country’s uncriticizable monarchy has died after a 110-day hunger strike. Twenty-eight year old Netiporn “Bung” Sanesangkhom had been jailed under Thailand’s severe lèse-majesté laws after asking people’s opinion of the monarchy in public spaces in 2022.

2: A manhunt is underway in France after two masked gunmen ambushed a prison van and freed a notorious drug dealer nicknamed “The Fly.” The incident is the latest in a trend of rising narco-related crime in Europe, as authorities seize record volumes of cocaine entering the EU while rival gangs fight for turf and clientele. Of course, when it comes to jailbreaks, the cinema-obsessed French gangster Rédoine Faïd remains the master of the craft.

1 billion: The Biden administration reportedly told lawmakers it’s moving forward with a new sale of roughly $1 billion worth of arms to Israel, including tactical vehicles and ammunition. This news comes as the administration continues to butt heads with Israel over the Rafah operation, and just days after President Joe Biden put a hold on a shipment of bombs to the Jewish state as concerns rise over the mounting death toll amid the war with Hamas in Gaza.

Tourist stand in front of Peak Bolivar at the Sierra Nevada in the Andean state of Merida July 30, 2008.

REUTERS

Hard Numbers: Venezuela loses its glaciers, Renewables hit 30, MTG flames out, Thailand smokes cannabis industry, Kenya bulldozes flood-prone homes

6: It may surprise you that Venezuela, located just north of the equator, has glaciers. Well, it had glaciers. The country has just become the first in modern history to lose all of its Andean mountain glaciers, which once numbered six in total. Global warming has caused the last of them, the Humboldt Glacier, to shrink so much that it is now a mere “ice field.”

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FILE PHOTO: Thai LGBT community participates in Gay Freedom Day Parade in Bangkok, Thailand November 29, 2018.

REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

Thailand Moves One Step Closer to Marriage Equality

Thailand’s House of Representatives approved a bill aiming to secure legal recognition of same-sex marriages, a historic first in Southeast Asia. It passed with overwhelming support: 400 votes in favor and 10 against. The bill will ensure all couples equal rights under the law in key areas like marital tax savings, property inheritance, medical rights, and child adoption.

Thailand is known for being one of the few safe havens for the LGBTQ+ community on a continent with historically restrictive laws. Thai law lagged public opinion, with polls showing as many as 96.6% of respondents supporting same-sex marriage legalization. The country is known internationally for its thriving, public social scene, as well as by many media watchers for their hugely popular queer “Boy Love (BL)” dramas and RuPaul’s Drag Race spinoff.

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Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Thailand’s former PM to be paroled

Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is set to be granted parole after serving just six months of an eight-year jail sentence.

A brief history: Having dominated Thai politics for a generation, Thaksin – a populist billionaire – lived in self-imposed exile for 15 years after he was ousted by the military in 2006. Convicted in absentia of graft and abuse of power in 2008, he returned to Thailand just before last autumn’s election after striking a deal with the military establishment party that originally ousted him.

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Thailand, Bangkok, 2024/01/17. A tuktuk drives past a cannabis dispensary in the Nana district.

Valeria Mongelli / Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect

Pot politics: Thai government aims to overturn cannabis legalization

Passing the ganja in Thailand may soon be illegal – again. On Tuesday, Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew said the government plans to seek Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s approval next week for a draft bill to ban the use of recreational cannabis.

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Israelis protest in front of the Ministry of defense to free hostages taken by Hamas terrorist on October 7th 2023.

Raphael Gotheil / Hans Lucas via Reuters

Hard Numbers: Gaza hostage talks continue, Brazilians bake, Thais toke, Record-scratch in Madagascar election

50: Negotiations to release some of the Hamas-held hostages in Gaza continued Wednesday, as Qatari mediators reportedly sought the release of 50 civilians in exchange for Israel agreeing to a three-day cease-fire. Hamas kidnapped more than 230 people during its Oct. 7 rampage. For more on the challenges facing hostage negotiations, here are comments from somebody who knows a thing or two about the subject.

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An Afghan man stands on the debris of damaged houses after the recent earthquake, in the district of Zinda Jan, in Herat, Afghanistan October 9, 2023.

REUTERS/Ali Khara

Hard Numbers: Thousands killed in Afghan quake, Thais caught in the fighting, RFK’s new approach, China claims to hit economic targets, US wealth gap grows

2,400: At least 2,400 people have died in Afghanistan following Saturday’s 6.3-magnitude quake near the western city of Herat, the country’s third largest. While the search for survivors continues, the devastating tremor brings new hardship to an area already hard hit by the economic crisis. The World Bank estimates that two-thirds of Afghan families are at risk of losing their livelihood.

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