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Leader: Violence won’t be tolerated

Thailand’s prime minister vowed today to declare an emergency if anti-government protests turned violent, as tens of thousands marched on his office to demand his resignation for alleged corruption.

“I am ready to sign the decree if the situation becomes violent,” Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters during a campaign stop in Ubon.

Thaksin, who has repeatedly said he will not bow to the protesters, said cameras and other high-tech equipment have been put in place to monitor the protests and record any violations.

Thousands of demonstrators seeking Thaksin’s resignation marched in Bangkok today, vowing to continue peaceful protests until he steps down.

Thousands of protesters have been demanding Thaksin’s resignation in regular weekend rallies, accusing the tycoon-turned-politician of corruption, mishandling a Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand, stifling the media and allowing cronies to reap gains from state policies.

SEOUL, South Korea

PM offers to quit over golfing

South Korea’s prime minister offered to resign today amid mounting opposition criticism for playing golf when he was expected to oversee the government’s response to a railway strike, the president’s spokesman said.

Lee Hae-chan relayed his intention to step down to President Roh Moo-hyun, who just returned from a trip to several African countries, presidential spokesman Kim Man-soo said. Roh will decide on Lee’s fate after receiving a full report on the scandal, Kim said.

Lee has been under fire from the opposition and public for golfing March 1, the first day of a nationwide walkout by railway workers.

Lee was off that day, a national holiday marking Korea’s 1919 civil uprising against Japanese colonial rule, but he was heavily criticized because South Koreans expect high-level officials to work overtime during times of crisis. Lee, who took the job in June 2004, has repeatedly publicly apologized.


Free care declared for all over 60

Newly inaugurated President Michelle Bachelet said Monday that all Chileans older than 60 will immediately begin receiving free care at public hospitals.

“This will become effective immediately,” the Socialist physician said at a news conference. “This is possible because it does not require a law.”

The benefit would be for those at least 60 who are registered with the federal insurance system known as Fonasa, Health Minister Maria Soledad Barria told Santiago daily La Segunda. The paper estimated more than 300,000 people would be eligible.

According the last national census in 2002, 1.7 million people of Chile’s 16 million people are older than 60. But there was no immediate word on how the Bachelet’s program would affect the older Chileans not linked to Fonasa or if they could now join.

Compiled from wire reports


Top stories in Nation/World

Sen. Maria Cantwell says governments should not be on the hook for coal mine cleanups

UPDATED: 12:25 p.m.

updated  WASHINGTON – Congress should end a practice that puts the federal government and states at risk of paying for expensive coal mine cleanups when mining companies go bankrupt, according to a new finding by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The GAO, an investigative arm of Congress, is recommending that lawmakers eliminate the ability of coal mine owners to self-certify their financial wealth, known as “self-bonding.” The controversial process lets owners avoid putting up collateral or getting third-party surety bonds – a requirement of companies in every other energy sector.