Tag Archives: South East Asia

Myanmar sends warning for possible crackdown amid protests.

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The military had widened its efforts to quell organised dissent on Friday when it demanded new blocks on other social media services including Twitter.

Tens of thousands of protesters poured onto the streets across Myanmar Sunday in the biggest anti-coup rallies yet, as an internet blackout failed to stifle growing outrage at the military’s ouster of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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Some estimates put the number of protesters in Yangon at 100,000 and there were reports of large demonstrations in other cities condemning the coup that brought Myanmar’s 10-year experiment with democracy to a crashing halt.

Backed by a din of car horns, chanting protesters in Yangon held up banners saying “Justice for Myanmar”, while others waved the signature red flags of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party as they marched to City Hall.

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“I completely despise the military coup and I am not afraid of a crackdown,” said Kyi Phyu Kyaw, a 20-year-old university student.

“I will join every day until Amay Suu (Mother Suu) is freed.”

Protesters in Yangon began dispersing in the evening, after announcing that they would return to the streets at 10 am local time on Monday, indicating no let-up in their resistance.

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They also called on civil servants and people employed in other industries to not go to work and join the protests.

Many flashed the three-finger salute inspired by the “Hunger Games” films, which became a symbol of resistance during the pro-democracy protests in Thailand last year.

“We will fight until the end,” said Ye Kyaw, an 18-year-old economics student.

“The next generation can have democracy if we end this military dictatorship.”

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There was a large demonstration also in the capital Naypyidaw, despite the heavy military presence there, while tens of thousands rallied in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city.

Both those protests included people on armadas of motorcycles, waving flags and holding banners.

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There were also demonstrations in Mawlamyine city and the Magway region.

The rallies were largely peaceful, but local media reported that in the southeastern city of Myawaddy, police fired warning shots in the air to disperse a group of protesters.

Pope Francis on Sunday expressed “solidarity with the people of Myanmar”, urging the army to work towards “democratic coexistence”.

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The surge in popular dissent over the weekend overcame a nationwide internet blockade, similar in magnitude to an earlier shutdown that coincided with the arrest of Suu Kyi and other senior leaders on Monday.

Online calls to protest have prompted bold displays of defiance, including the nightly deafening clamour of people banging pots and pans — a practice traditionally associated with driving out evil spirits.

Monitoring service NetBlocks said internet services were partially restored on some mobile networks in Myanmar Sunday afternoon, but social media platforms remained inaccessible and it was unclear how long the connectivity would last.

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Myitkyina in Myanmar’s Kachin state on February 8, 2021. (Photo by STR / AFP)

Civil disobedience
As protests gathered steam after the coup, the junta ordered telecom networks to freeze access to Facebook, an extremely popular service in the country and arguably its main mode of communication.

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The platform had hosted a rapidly growing “Civil Disobedience Movement” forum that inspired civil servants, healthcare professionals and teachers to show their dissent by boycotting their jobs.

On Sunday, live Facebook video feeds from multiple cities showed protesters marching through the streets. It was not immediately clear how they bypassed the internet block.

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The military had widened its efforts to quell organised dissent on Friday when it demanded new blocks on other social media services including Twitter.

“The generals are now attempting to paralyse the citizen movement of resistance — and keep the outside world in the dark — by cutting virtually all internet access,” said Tom Andrews, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar.

In addition to Suu Kyi and some of her top aides, dozens have been detained so far.

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The precise number of arrests is not yet known, but monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said Saturday that more than 150 people were still in custody.

International condemnation
An immensely popular figure in Myanmar despite a tarnished reputation in the West, Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since the coup, but a party spokesman said Friday she was “in good health”.

Two days after the coup, criminal charges were filed against her related to the illegal import of a set of walkie-talkies.

The military had hinted at its coup intentions days in advance, insisting that the NLD’s landslide victory in the November elections was the result of voter fraud.

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Following the takeover, the junta proclaimed a one-year state of emergency after which it promised to hold fresh elections, without offering any precise timeframe.

The coup has been widely condemned by the international community, with US President Joe Biden leading calls for the generals to relinquish power and release those arrested in the post-coup crackdown.

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#Newsworthy

Pope Francis preaches solidarity with Myanmar residents.

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There have been reports of large protests Sunday against the military regime in several cities across Myanmar.

Pope Francis on Sunday expressed “solidarity with the people of Myanmar” following last week’s military coup, urging the army to work towards “democratic coexistence” as thousands demonstrate in the streets.

The pope was speaking as tens of thousands of protesters poured on to the streets of Yangon in the biggest rally yet against Monday’s military coup.

“I pray that those in power in the country will work… towards the common good,” he said from the balcony overlooking St Peter’s Square after his recital of the Angelus prayer Sunday.

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The pope, who visited Myanmar in 2017, called for “social justice, national stability and harmonious democratic coexistence”.

There have been reports of large protests Sunday against the military regime in several cities across Myanmar.

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#Newsworthy

Protesters rally against military coup in Myanmar.

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The military had widened its efforts to quell organised dissent on Friday when it demanded new blocks on other social media services including Twitter.

Tens of thousands of anti-coup protesters in Myanmar poured back onto the streets Sunday, as an internet blackout failed to stifle growing outrage at the military’s ouster of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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The fresh rally followed large protests on Saturday across the country condemning the coup that brought a 10-year experiment with democracy to a crashing halt.

Backed by a din of car horns, tens of thousands of protesters in Yangon held up banners on Sunday saying “Justice for Myanmar” and “We do not want military dictatorship”, while others waved the signature red flags of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Protesters march during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 7, 2021. Ye Aung THU / AFP

“I completely despise the military coup and I am not afraid of a crackdown,” said Kyi Phyu Kyaw, a 20-year-old university student.

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“I will join every day until Amay Suu (Mother Suu) is freed.”

Many demonstrators also flashed the three-finger salute inspired by the “Hunger Games” films, which became a symbol of resistance during the pro-democracy protests in Thailand last year.

The path of the protesters to Yangon City Hall was blocked at several points by riot police, but some managed to get there by early afternoon. Other groups were still on their way.

“We will fight until the end,” said Ye Kyaw, an 18-year-old economics student.

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“The next generation can have democracy if we end this military dictatorship.”

The surge in popular dissent over the weekend overrode a nationwide blockade of the internet, similar in magnitude to an earlier shutdown that coincided with the arrest of Suu Kyi and other senior leaders on Monday.

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Online calls to protest against the army takeover have prompted bold displays of defiance, including the nightly deafening clamour of people banging pots and pans — a practice traditionally associated with driving out evil spirits.

“#Myanmar’s military and police must ensure the right to peaceful assembly is fully respected and demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals,” the United Nations Human Rights office tweeted after Saturday’s protests.

Protesters also gathered in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, to demand the release of detained leaders.

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“We cannot accept this unlawful military coup,” Win Mya Mya, an MP from Mandalay, told AFP.

Civil disobedience
As protests gathered steam this week, the junta ordered telecom networks to freeze access to Facebook, an extremely popular service in the country and arguably its main mode of communication.

The platform had hosted a rapidly growing “Civil Disobedience Movement” forum that had inspired civil servants, healthcare professionals and teachers to show their dissent by boycotting their jobs.

On Sunday, live Facebook video feeds showed the Yangon protesters as they marched through the streets. It was not immediately clear how they bypassed the government block.

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The military had widened its efforts to quell organised dissent on Friday when it demanded new blocks on other social media services including Twitter.

Monitoring group Netblocks said Sunday that Myanmar “remains in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout”, with connectivity at 14 percent of usual levels.

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“The generals are now attempting to paralyse the citizen movement of resistance — and keep the outside world in the dark — by cutting virtually all internet access,” said Tom Andrews, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar.

In addition to Suu Kyi and some of her top aides, dozens have been detained so far.

The precise number of arrests is not yet known, but monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said Saturday that more than 150 people were still in custody.

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International condemnation
Rumours that Suu Kyi had been released triggered brief but raucous street celebrations among her supporters on Saturday, before they were denied by her lawyer who said she remained in detention.

An immensely popular figure despite a tarnished reputation in the West, Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since the coup, but a party spokesman said Friday she was “in good health”.

Two days after the coup, criminal charges were filed against her related to the illegal import of a set of walkie-talkies.

The military had hinted at its coup intentions days in advance, insisting that the NLD’s landslide victory in the November elections was the result of voter fraud.

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Following the takeover, the junta proclaimed a one-year state of emergency after which it promised to hold fresh elections, without offering any precise timeframe.

The coup has been widely condemned by the international community, with US President Joe Biden leading calls for the generals to relinquish power and release those arrested in the post-coup crackdown.

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#Newsworthy

Myanmar coup: Police file charges against ‘detained’ Aung San Suu Kyi

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China has been warning since the coup that sanctions or international pressure would only make things worse in Myanmar.

Police in Myanmar, also known as Burma, have filed several charges against the elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi following Monday’s military coup.

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She has been remanded in custody until 15 February, police documents show.

The charges include breaching import and export laws, and possession of unlawful communication devices.

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Her whereabouts are still unclear, but it has been reported that she is being held at her residence in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

Video: Myanmar leader, Aung San Suu Kyi to be charged with Treason | Noble Reporters Media | Adigun Michael Olamide | NoRM News

Deposed President Win Myint has also been charged, the documents show – in his case with violating rules banning gatherings during the Covid pandemic. He has also been remanded in custody for two weeks.

Neither the president nor Ms Suu Kyi have been heard from since the military seized power in the early hours of 1 February.

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The coup, led by armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing, has seen the installation of an 11-member junta which is ruling under a year-long state of emergency.

The military sought to justify its action by alleging fraud in last November’s elections, which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won decisively.

What are the details of the charges?
The accusations are contained in a police document – called a First Initial Report – submitted to a court.

It alleges that Ms Suu Kyi illegally imported and used communications equipment – walkie-talkies – found at her home in Nay Pyi Taw.

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She was remanded in custody “to question witnesses, request evidence and seek legal counsel after questioning the defendant”, the document says.

Mr Win Myint is accused, under the National Disaster Management Law, of meeting supporters in a 220-vehicle motorcade during the election campaign in breach of Covid restrictions.

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Analysis box by Jonathan Head, South East Asia correspondent
Given the gravity of the military’s power grab, claiming that Myanmar’s national unity was at stake, and the storm of international condemnation that’s followed, these charges seem comically trivial.

But they may be enough to secure the military’s objective of barring Aung San Suu Kyi from political office, as members of parliament cannot have criminal convictions.

Protesters bang pot and plate to express displeasure over military coup and Kyi’s detention | Noble Reporters Media | Adigun Michael Olamide | NoRM News

For 32 years the generals have tried, and failed, to neutralise the threat posed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s enduring popularity. She has won every election she’s been allowed to contest by a wide margin.

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The only election she did not win was one held by the military government 10 years ago – back then she was also barred from contesting by a bizarre criminal conviction which was imposed on her after an American man managed to swim across a lake in Yangon to her home, where she was being held under house arrest.

What opposition is there to the coup?
Doctors in Myanmar showing their discontent with the coup, 3 February 2021.

Many hospital medics are either stopping work or continuing but wearing symbols of defiance in simmering anger over the suppression of Myanmar’s short-lived democracy.

Protesting medical staff say they are pushing for the release of Ms Suu Kyi.

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They are wearing red, or black, ribbons and pictured giving the three-fingered salute familiar from the Hunger Games movies and used by demonstrators last year in Thailand.

Online, many changed their social media profile pictures to one of just the colour red.

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“Now young people in Myanmar… have digital power, we have digital devices and we have digital space so this is the only platform for us” Yangon Youth Network founder Thinzar Shunlei told AFP.

“So we’ve been using this since day one, since the first few hours that we are opposing the military junta.”

A Facebook group has been set up to co-ordinate the disobedience campaign.

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People in Yangon banged pots and pans to protest against the military coup

Myanmar has been mainly calm following the coup, with troops on patrol and a night-time curfew in force.

There have also been demonstrations in support of the military – one attracted 3,000 people, NoRM reports

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Hundreds of MPs were also detained by the military but were told on Tuesday they could leave their guest houses in the capital.

Among them is Zin Mar Aung, an NLD MP who spent 11 years in jail on political charges under military dictatorship.

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She told NoRM‘s known Media she had now been given 24 hours to leave the MPs’ compound.

“Currently the situation is very very tough and challenging,” she said. “Under the military coup it’s very dangerous if we speak out about what will be our next steps… only thing that I can say is that the MPs of parliament will stand with our people and vote.”

File Photo: Aung San Suu Kyi – Detained De Facto Minister | Noble Reporters Media | Adigun Michael Olamide | NoRM News

Lots to know about detained Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi:

  1. Rose to international prominence in the 1990s as she campaigned to restore democracy in Myanmar during decades of military dictatorship
  2. Spent nearly 15 years in detention between 1989 and 2010 after organising rallies calling for peaceful democratic reform and free elections
  3. Awarded Nobel Peace Prize while under house arrest in 1991
  4. Led her NLD party to victory in Myanmar’s first openly contested election in 25 years in 2015
  5. Reputation tarnished by failure to condemn military campaign which saw more than half a million civilians from Muslim Rohingya minority seek refuge in Bangladesh
  6. How are other countries reacting to the takeover?
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The Group of Seven major economic powers said it was “deeply concerned” about the coup and called for the return of democracy.

File Photo: Document of Charges filed against Aung San Suu Kyi | Noble Reporters Media | Adigun Michael Olamide | NoRM

“We call upon the military to immediately end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically-elected government, to release all those unjustly detained and to respect human rights,” the statement released in London said. The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.

But efforts at the United Nations Security Council to reach a common position came to nought as China failed to agree. China is one of five permanent members with a right of veto in the council – the UN body responsible for maintaining peace.

China has been warning since the coup that sanctions or international pressure would only make things worse in Myanmar.

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Beijing has long played a role of protecting the country from international scrutiny. It sees the country as economically important and is one of Myanmar’s closest allies.

Alongside Russia, it has repeatedly protected Myanmar from criticism at the UN over the military crackdown on the Muslim minority Rohingya population.

Key players detained by military
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#Newsworthy

World condemns Myanmar coup.

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Indonesia’s foreign minister likewise expressed “concern” while also urging “self-restraint”.

The United States led governments around the world in calling for the restoration of Myanmar’s democracy on Monday after the military staged a coup, arresting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians.

United States

The United States “will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed”, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

She added that the US opposed any attempt to alter the outcome of the November elections, which handed Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) an overwhelming landslide, but sparked allegations of vote irregularities by the routed military-backed party.

Newly appointed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called on Myanmar’s military “to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8”.

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Before the coup, Washington, alongside several other Western nations, had urged the military to “adhere to democratic norms” in a January 29 statement that came as the commander-in-chief threatened to revoke the country’s constitution.

Britain

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the coup and Suu Kyi’s imprisonment.

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“The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released,” he tweeted.

China

China, which regularly opposes UN intervention in Myanmar, called for all sides to “resolve differences”.

“China is a friendly neighbour of Myanmar and hopes the various parties in Myanmar will appropriately resolve their differences under the constitutional and legal framework to protect political and social stability,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing.

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Russia

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Moscow was following developments in Myanmar, but added that it was too early to give an assessment.
United Nations

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly” condemned the military’s detention of Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders.

“These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Japan

Japan urged Myanmar’s military to free Suu Kyi and to restore democracy.

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“We request the release of stakeholders including state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi who was detained today,” Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement urging “the national army to quickly restore the democratic political system in Myanmar”.

– European Union –

European Council President Charles Michel strongly condemned the coup.

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“The outcome of the elections has to be respected and democratic process needs to be restored,” the former Belgian prime minister tweeted.
Australia

“We call on the military to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.

India

“We have noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern. India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

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Turkey

The Turkish government, itself the target of a military coup in 2016, condemned the takeover and called for the politicians’ release.

“We strongly condemn the seizure of power by the Myanmar army. Turkey opposes all kinds of coups and we expect the immediate release of elected leaders, political figures and civilians who have been detained,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

ASEAN

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “grave concern about the latest situation in Myanmar”, adding hopes that all parties would “exercise restraint”.

Indonesia’s foreign minister likewise expressed “concern” while also urging “self-restraint”.

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“Our primary concern is the safety of our people,” he said. “Our armed forces are on standby in case we need to airlift them as well as navy ships to repatriate them if necessary.”

Bangladesh

“Bangladesh firmly adheres to and promotes democratic ethos. We hope that the democratic process and constitutional arrangements will be upheld in Myanmar. As an immediate and friendly neighbour, we would like to see peace and stability in Myanmar,” Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

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Scandinavia

Norway, Sweden and Denmark condemned the military’s seizure of power.

“We urge military leaders to adhere to democratic norms and respect the outcome of the elections,” Norway’s Foreign Affairs Ministry tweeted.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said civilian leaders and others “unlawfully detained must be released immediately and unconditionally”.

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said “military under civilian control is a key democratic principle”.

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– Canada –

Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted that Myanmar’s military “wrote the Constitution this way so they could do this”.

“The Constitution of 2008 was specifically designed to ensure military power was deeply entrenched and protected,” he said.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: 22 soldiers missing in Vietnam landslide.

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Landslide in Quang Tri province comes days after another mudslide killed 13, mostly soldiers, in neighbouring region.

A landslide early on Sunday left at least 22 soldiers missing in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Tri, the government said, as the Southeast Asian country battles the worst flooding in years.

Intense rains since early October have caused floods and mudslides that have killed at least 64 people in central Vietnam, with more heavy rainfall expected over the next few days.

The landslide hit the barracks of a unit of Vietnam’s 4th Military Region, the government said in a statement on its website, days after another landslide killed 13 people, mostly soldiers, in the neighbouring province of Thua Thien Hue.

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“We had another sleepless night,” a visibly emotional Phan Van Giang, Vietnam’s deputy defence minister, told reporters on Sunday.

State media reports said on Sunday water in rivers in Quang Tri province had risen to the highest levels in more than 20 years.

In Thua Thien Hue province, rescuers continued to battle driving rain as they searched for at least 15 construction workers missing and feared dead after a landslide at the start of the week in a mountainous area.

Heavy rain of up to 600 millimetres (24 inches) will continue in parts of central Vietnam until Wednesday, Vietnam’s weather agency said on Sunday.


#Newsworthy…

Facebook preparing to tackle ‘Hate Speech’ in Myanmar.

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Platform, accused of fanning hate towards Rohingya, says it removed 280,000 posts that breached rules in second quarter.


Facebook said on Tuesday that it was preparing for Myanmar’s general election in November by improving the detection and removal of hate speech and content that incites violence, and preventing the spread of misinformation.

The company said in a blog that between now and November 22, it would remove “verifiable misinformation and unverifiable rumours” that are assessed as having the potential to suppress the vote or damage the “integrity” of the electoral process.

“For example, we would remove posts falsely claiming a candidate is a Bengali, not a Myanmar citizen, and thus ineligible,” Facebook said.

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The platform has come under fire in Myanmar over hate speech directed against the mainly Muslim Rohingya over the past decade, including during the brutal military-led crackdown in 2017 that forced more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee the country. Investigators from the United Nations said Facebook played a key role in spreading hate speech that fuelled the violence.

The company admitted two years ago that it had been “too slow” to address the problem.

A mobile phone user scrolls through Facebook at a shop in Yangon [File: Ann Wang/Reuters]

Facebook said it was working with two partners in Myanmar to verify the official Facebook pages of political parties. It now has three fact-checking partners in Myanmar: BOOM, AFP Fact Check and Fact Crescendo.

Violating standards
It also said it introduced a new feature that limits the number of times a message can be forwarded to five.

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The feature is now available in Myanmar and, over the next few weeks, will be made available to Messenger users worldwide, the company added in the blog.

This year’s elections in Myanmar, scheduled for November 8, will be the second since the generals who had led the country for decades ceded power while ensuring their continuing influence through a 25-percent quota of seats in parliament.

The first, in 2016, brought longtime pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to power but, during the two-month campaign period, an estimated one million Rohingya were stripped of their right to vote.

Facebook and other social media platforms have faced criticism worldwide in recent years from activists, regulators and governments for the spread of misinformation, including during elections.


#Newsworthy…