World

Russia under increasing fire; Thailand’s human rights wrongs. By Hamish McDonald.

Paris prepares for new climate order and escape clauses

Protesters at the Russian consulate in Istanbul wave “Killer Russia” placards during a demonstration against Russia’s Syria policy.
Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Prepare for another attack on our values. Yes, once again in Paris, the city of the Enlightenment, the fanatics are massing to destroy our democratic political systems and capitalism, eliminate national borders and impose their authoritarian rule.

Next week, Maurice Newman’s worst nightmare starts to take shape as the United Nations tries to build its caliphate of climate change, despite the shrill warnings by the recent chairman of the Abbott government’s Business Advisory Council in the pages of The Australian.

Some 120 world leaders, Malcolm Turnbull among them, and thousands of officials will attend the UN conference on climate change in Paris. Already 166 nations have issued targets for reducing carbon emissions over the next 15 years. But it’s not enough, says the mastermind, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who is aided and abetted by the communist who infiltrated the Vatican, Pope Francis. The pledges will only keep the projected rise in global warming to 3 degrees Celsius, while scientific advice is that a 2-degree rise is the outer limit to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The voices of denial are getting more forlorn. A new Lowy Institute poll finds 62 per cent of adult Australians think the government should be prepared to make stronger commitments on emissions reductions in the interests of reaching a global agreement. Only 36 per cent say the government should “stick to its target regardless of what other countries do”. More than half of the Australian population – at 52 per cent, an increase of 16 percentage points since 2012 – now say global warming is “a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.” Support for Abbott’s Direct Action method of paying polluters to reduce emissions is still 51 per cent, while 43 per cent support carbon pricing.

Lowy’s also published a paper, by the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Fergus Green and the Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss, that advocates a moratorium on new coalmines, on what seems sound economic logic. A looming end to use of coal is encouraging owners of potentially stranded coal assets to get their resources out into the market before that happens. This in turn is glutting the global market and driving down prices, making many existing mines uneconomic. Far better to cap production and save existing jobs in this interim before the coal-free future.

Fortunately the fierce anti-colonialism of India’s politicians and bureaucrats will save the day. Proponents of new mines such as Adani’s Carmichael project in Queensland (whose product, Green and Denniss point out, will produce annual emissions equivalent to the entire emissions of Bangladesh and its 160 million people) can rest easy.

On Monday, Indian environment minister Prakash Javadekar announced India would urge “climate justice” for developing countries in Paris. Developed countries should commit to more stringent carbon emissions cuts to free up “carbon space” for developing countries to grow, as well as spending more to help developing countries adopt cleaner sources of energy. That should make room for Australia to send more coal to India. Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Turkey this month, Turnbull exchanged ratified treaty documents on civilian nuclear co-operation with India’s Narendra Modi, meaning exports of Australian uranium can now go ahead.

Russia under increasing fire

What does Vladimir Putin do next? Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet along the Syrian border adds to the rising costs of his external adventures. 

In the Middle East, it follows the bombing of the Metrojet airliner in Egypt and a hit on a Russian convoy in Syria by a United States-supplied TOW anti-tank missile fired by Sunni rebels. 

In Eastern Europe, Ukrainian nationalists and local Tatars say they blew up power pylons on the Crimean Peninsula, plunging the Russian-annexed region into darkness. Also on the sidelines of the G20 meeting, Atlantic powers extended sanctions on Russia for another six months over aggression in Ukraine.

 Moscow’s economic squeeze is tightening as well. Oil stocks in developed countries hit a record high last month, with a mild winter forecast in Europe and North America. Yet Saudi Arabia is showing no sign of restricting production. As well as knocking out high-cost oil and gas from US frackers, the Saudis want to hurt Russia and Iran. 

Even so the Turks have done Putin a small favour. After Turkey’s shoot-down, oil prices jumped nearly 3 per cent on Tuesday. This might suggest to Putin that more military tension is the way to go, to the extent it doesn’t stop Germany, Turkey and other customers buying Russian gas. So far the response is deploying an air warfare cruiser and an S-400 anti-aircraft system to the Syria theatre, advanced weapons making the region’s skies even more hazardous. 

Thailand’s human rights wrongs

Thailand’s swapping of roles with Myanmar in the human rights and democracy field continues apace. On top of its refoulement of about 100 Uygur exiles into the hands of Chinese security agencies in July, it’s just repatriated three veteran Chinese dissidents at the request of Beijing.

Jiang Yefei, a cartoonist, fled China in 2008 after being arrested for lampooning the handling of the massive Sichuan earthquake. Canada had agreed to accept him as a refugee. Dong Guangping, a political activist, had been in Thailand since September and had gained UN refugee status, pending resettlement. Gui Minhai has Swedish citizenship and had been working for Hong Kong publishing house Mighty Current, which puts out books about China’s power struggles and corruption scandals. All three were put on a Chinese charter aircraft on November 13 and sent back.

Meanwhile, fear is gripping Bangkok’s establishment as embarrassments to the succession of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn meet mysterious fates, even while ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej remains alive. 

A celebrity fortune teller, Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, also known as Mor Yong, had once been the prince’s favourite soothsayer. He got thrown into jail after griping about funds raised for publicity stunts by the prince. Earlier this month, he died of “blood-poisoning”, according to jailers. Two weeks earlier a police computer crime expert, Major Prakrom Warunprapa, arrested for lese-majesty, was said to have hanged himself in his cell. 

Top police ranks had taken a culling a year ago after Prince Vajiralongkorn divorced Princess Srirasmi, a cocktail hostess he’d married in 2001. A purge of her relatives and associates included her uncle Pongpat Chayaphan, who was head of the Central Investigation Unit, and dozens of other police. Srirasmi’s parents and three brothers were charged with defaming the monarchy, while she was rusticated to a remote area. 

As many as 50 army and police officers are said to be under investigation. A former national police spokesman, General Prawut Thavornsiri, has abruptly resigned and disappeared overseas. The purge suggests unhappiness about the succession, even in the normally unquestioning royalist bastion, the military.

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 28, 2015 as "New climate order and escape clauses". Subscribe here.

Hamish McDonald
is The Saturday Paper’s world editor.