Top Asian News at 5:00 am GMT

BANGKOK (AP) — In the past month, more than 3,000 desperate, hungry people have landed on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, drawing international attention to a crisis in Southeast Asia. Arrivals of the overcrowded boats — crammed with Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and impoverished Bangladeshis hoping to find jobs — have now slowed. But the crisis is far from over, and will be the topic of a Friday conference in Bangkok to be attended by senior officials from across the Asia-Pacific and beyond. A look at key issues and challenges:

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Eating onions, lying in the shade and crowding into rivers, Indians were doing whatever they could Thursday to stay cool amid a brutal heat wave that has killed more than 1,400 in the past month. Most of the 1,412 heat-related deaths so far have occurred in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where temperatures have soared up to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit), according to government figures. Among the most vulnerable were the elderly and the poor, many of whom live in slums or farm huts with no access to air conditioners or sometimes even shady trees.

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter strongly defended America’s right to fly over artificial islands that Beijing is building in the South China Sea, but gave few hints ahead of a visit to Asia this week about what the United States was willing to do to halt the construction effort. Carter responded to Chinese complaints about U.S. military flights over the projects by saying, “There should be no mistake in this, the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

BANGKOK (AP) — Six prominent protest leaders in Thailand were sentenced to two years in prison Thursday for storming the prime minister’s office compound during massive anti-government rallies in 2008 in part of the political turmoil that has plagued the country in the past decade. A Criminal Court judge said former media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul, former politician Chamlong Srimuang and four other leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy were guilty of trespassing at the Government House during a 2008 rally.

BEIJING (AP) — The wife of a Chinese artist says authorities have detained him after he posted a humorous portrait of President Xi Jinping online. Judy Zhu said Thursday that police are accusing artist Dai Jianyong of creating a disturbance after detaining him Tuesday near their Shanghai home. Police there didn’t answer phones Thursday.

BEIJING (AP) — A former member of China’s national legislature who is accused of running a brothel with 100 prostitutes at a luxury hotel that he ran in southern China has gone on trial on charges of organizing prostitution. Liang Yaohui was the biggest name to fall in a wide-ranging crackdown on the sex trade in Dongguan, a manufacturing city near Hong Kong famed for its bathhouses, karaoke parlors and seedy nightlife.

BEIJING (AP) — A preliminary investigation into a nursing home fire that killed 38 people in central China has blamed poor building construction and lax safety checks, Chinese authorities reported. The State Administration of Work Safety said in a statement Wednesday that investigators found the bungalows of the Kangleyuan Rest Home in central Henan province were built with steel sheets stuffed with flammable materials. The government watchdog group also found poorly designed fire exits and insufficient emergency response and electrical systems.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Several hundred protesters in Myanmar’s main city denied Wednesday that boat people arriving on Southeast Asian shores are Rohingya Muslims, a religious minority the government and many others in the predominantly Buddhist nation say does not exist. About 30 radical Buddhist monks led the rally in Yangon.

UKHIYA, Bangladesh (AP) — The traffickers spun stories that were unimaginable to their listeners, many who hailed from tiny Bangladeshi villages where almost no one earns more than a few dollars a day. First, there would be the boat: A huge boat where people could spread out comfortably, where the food would be plentiful and delicious. They would be treated with decency while on board and at the end of a week or so they would be quietly dropped off in Malaysia and given high-paying jobs.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s first lady has broken numerous conventions in a society that traditionally sequesters women behind closed doors — speaking out on issues such as violence against women, the rule of law and the power of religion. But perhaps Rula Ghani’s biggest taboo breaker is simply being the country’s first presidential spouse in decades to be seen and heard in public. When her husband, President Ashraf Ghani, took the helm of the nation eight months ago, he did something unprecedented — he introduced his wife in his inaugural speech.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An all-night siege in an upscale neighborhood of the Afghan capital, Kabul, ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning with the deaths of four heavily armed Taliban attackers, though no civilians or security personnel were injured or killed, an Afghan official said. The attack came amid intensified fighting across many parts of Afghanistan, following the start in late April of the annual Taliban warm weather offensive. A Taliban attack on a guesthouse in another part of Kabul earlier this month left 14 people dead, including nine foreigners.

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The U.N. food agency is hiring thousands of mountain and trekking guides, porters and other workers to carry food, medicine, tents and supplies to Nepal’s mostly inaccessible northern villages where two powerful earthquakes destroyed houses, officials said Wednesday. Richard Ragan of the U.N.’s World Food Program said the workers would carry the supplies on their backs and also would be repairing the walking trails destroyed by the April 25 and May 12 earthquakes. How many are hired will depend on need.

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani judge ordered police Wednesday to hold and question the embattled CEO of a software company for a week on allegations he oversaw a global diploma mill, as broadcasters aired images of blank degrees stacked in his firm’s offices. The judicial order marked the latest crisis for Shoaib Sheikh, the top official at Axact, a software company which a recent New York Times report accused of making millions of dollars selling fake high school diplomas and university degrees. While Axact has denied the allegations and threatened legal action against the Times, Pakistani investigators said they found hundreds of thousands of fake degrees during a raid Wednesday on the company’s offices in Karachi.

BEIJING (AP) — China said Wednesday that it has foiled 181 terror plots since it started a crackdown a year ago on Islamic separatists in the northwestern region of Xinjiang that was prompted by a surge of violence that reached as far as Beijing. However, it was unclear what scale of terror organization is reflected in the tally, because authorities have given neither extensive details on the plots nor a clear definition of what they would include, and some analysts suggest small-scale or even nonviolent incidents might be on the list.

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — A spokesman of a local Libyan city council says a North Korean couple has been abducted near the stronghold of the country’s Islamic State affiliate. Taher al-Zaroug, spokesman for the western city of Misrata’s city council, says the couple — both doctors — were travelling from the oasis of Zallah in central Libya, where they worked for a local hospital for many years.

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Top Asian News at 9:30 am GMT

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