Friday, June 13, 2008

Fury at Soaring Fuel Costs Spreads Around the World

Fury at Soaring Fuel Costs Spreads Around the World

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Violence has flared across Europe as hauliers, fishermen and taxi drivers protest against rising fuel prices they say are crippling their industries.

Some of the worst outbreaks were seen in Spain where prime minister José Luis Rodriguez pledged 'zero tolerance' of any disruption by 90,000 striking lorry drivers.

His warning came after a driver breaking the strike was burned when his lorry was set on fire.

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Fury: A lorry driver whose cab was set alight after he crossed a picket line in Alicante, Spain, lies on the floor with serious burns

A British father and his son feared for their lives when a mob of Spanish truckers hurled rocks at their van.

David Copestake, 40, and son Dylan, 12, were pelted as they drove on a dual carriageway.

Mr Copestake, who has a chain of estate agencies in London, said: 'It was terrifying. One rock smashed into the windscreen heading straight for my head.'

Spain's road system was returning to normal after the interior ministry ordered police to get tough.

The government has reached a deal with most of Spain's hauliers on relief from rising costs.

In Portugal, lorry drivers agreed to lift road blocks after their union accepted a deal with their government.

But it followed the death of a man near Lisbon on a picket line.

In France, hauliers mounted protest drives on motorways. set alight in violent protests

Protests have now gone worldwide, with the Philippines and Thailand also seeing angry workers taking to the streets.

Spain appears to have been worst hit, with lorry drivers on either side of the dispute paying with their lives.

Hundreds of lorries and minibuses blocked roads in Manila leading to Malacanang Palace yesterday to demand the lifting of a 12 per cent sales tax on fuel.

Petrol prices there have risen about 24 per cent this year.

Manila fuel protest

Anger: Drivers take their grievances onto the streets of Manila

Traffic ground to a halt as anti-riot police halted the convoy, including about 500 tuk-tuks, Manila's three-wheeled taxis.

In Thai capital Bangkok, tens of thousands of heavy lorries threatened to cause havoc as farmers demonstrated and fishermen have begun burning their boats in nationwide protests against soaring prices of fuel and other essentials.

Lorry drivers' leaders have warned the government it has until next Tuesday to subsidise their fuel or face at least 100,000 vehicles rumbling into Bangkok.

Finance Minister Suraphong Suebwonglee said there were plans to help reduce transport costs.

'I am not concerned about the lorry drivers' threat to strike because the government is seeking to subsidise the transport sectors as the whole,' he said.

One fishermen's group said more than half of the 50,000 fishing boats under its wing are being kept ashore because of the high cost of diesel.

Thai Airways International raised its fuel surcharges by up to 100 per cent on Wednesday due to the rising cost of jet fuel.

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World crisis: Thai truck drivers block the highway during a strike protest against high fuel prices on a highway on the outskirts of Bangkok

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Fury united: Activists from the Communist Party of India stop a train at Guwahati Railway Station during a protest against the hike in fuel prices

Opposition groups in Malaysia have vowed to push on with mass protests against a 41 per cent hike in petrol prices - despite a pledge from the Prime Minister to keep prices fixed for the rest of the year.

Malaysia is Asia's largest net oil exporter, earning £38 million a year in revenue for every 50 pence rise in crude prices.

Protesters demanded to know why rising profits from oil exports were not being used as subsidies to the poor.

A march was due today in Kuala Lumpur to the Petronas Twin Towers, headquarters of oil giant Petronas.

A million people are expected for another demonstration in the capital next month.

Police have warned they will take action against protesters, with a permit required for any gatherings of more than four people.

Malaysia followed India, Indonesia, Taiwan and Sri Lanka by raising pump prices last week.

On Monday, Nepal became the latest Asian nation to rise prices to stem losses of a state firm.

Also in Asia, South Korean lorry drivers voted to strike on Monday, ignoring a £5 billion government aid package designed to cushion the impact of fuel price rises.

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