Tag Archives: Southeast Asia

Facebook ban Military accounts in support of Myanmar protesters.

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Facebook admitted that year it had failed to do enough to prevent the incitement of violence in Myanmar.

Facebook said it has banned all remaining accounts linked to the Myanmar military on Thursday, citing the junta’s use of deadly force against anti-coup demonstrators.

The move, which takes effect immediately, applies to the military and entities controlled by the armed forces on both Facebook and Instagram.

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It also bans “military-linked commercial entities” from advertising on the platforms.

“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban,” the social media giant said in a statement.

“We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” it added, using the Myanmar name for the country’s armed forces.

The junta has steadily increased its use of force against a massive and largely peaceful civil disobedience campaign demanding Myanmar’s army leaders relinquish power.

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Three anti-coup protesters have been killed in demonstrations, while a man patrolling his Yangon neighbourhood against night arrests was also shot dead.

Facebook said its ban was intended to prevent Myanmar’s generals “from abusing our platform”.

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The military has used Facebook to boost its claims that voter fraud marred an election last November after ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.

Since seizing power, the junta has arrested hundreds of anti-coup protesters, ordered nightly internet blackouts and banned social media platforms — including Facebook — in an effort to quell resistance.

Thursday’s announcement follows Facebook’s earlier decision to kick off a page run by the regime’s “True News” information service after the tech giant accused it of inciting violence.

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Pages for government offices now run by the junta remain unaffected.

“This ban does not cover government ministries and agencies engaged in the provision of essential public services,” the company said. “This includes the Ministry of Health and Sport, and the Ministry of Education.”

In recent years, hundreds of army-linked pages have been blocked by Facebook after the social media giant came under heavy criticism for its ineffective response to malicious posts in the country.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and other top brass were booted from the platform in 2018, a year after a military-led crackdown forced around 750,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim community to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.

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Facebook admitted that year it had failed to do enough to prevent the incitement of violence in Myanmar.

“We can and should do more,” Facebook executive Alex Warofka said at the time.

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#Newsworthy..

Two anti-coup protesters killed hours after first death.

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One woman received a head wound from a rubber bullet and emergency workers quickly administered first aid to her.

Myanmar’s security forces fired live rounds and rubber bullets at protesters in the country’s second-largest city on Saturday, leaving at least two dead and about 30 injured.

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Much of the country has been in uproar since the military deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on February 1, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets to protest against the junta.

On Saturday, hundreds of police and soldiers gathered at Yadanarbon shipyard in Mandalay, by the Irrawaddy river.

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Their presence sparked fears among nearby residents that authorities would try to arrest workers for taking part in the anti-coup movement.

Banging pots and pans in what has become a signature gesture of defiance, protesters started yelling at the police to leave and throwing rocks at them.

But officers opened fire with live rounds, rubber bullets and slingshot balls, dispersing the alarmed protesters.

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“Two people were killed,” said Hlaing Min Oo, the head of a Mandalay-based volunteer emergency rescue team, adding that one of the victims was a boy shot in the head.

“About 30 others were injured half of the injured people were shot with live rounds.”

The rest were wounded from rubber bullets and slingshots, he said.

Another emergency worker on the scene confirmed the two deaths.

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“Two people died,” he told AFP, declining to be named for fear of repercussions. “One under-18 boy got shot in his head.”

Graphic video circulated on Facebook of the boy splayed on the ground and bleeding from his head as one bystander placed a hand on his chest to feel for a heartbeat.

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‘Shooting cruelly’

Around the shipyard and its surrounding neighbourhood, empty bullet cartridges were found on the ground, as well as slingshot ammunition including metal balls.

One woman received a head wound from a rubber bullet and emergency workers quickly administered first aid to her.

A Facebook video streamed live by a resident on the scene appeared to carry non-stop sounds of gunshots.

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“They are shooting cruelly,” said the resident, who appeared to be taking shelter on a nearby construction site.

“We have to find a safer place.”

Authorities have arrested hundreds of people since the putsch in early February, many of them civil servants who had been boycotting work as part of a civil disobedience campaign.

Police and soldiers in some cities have deployed tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to tackle demonstrators.

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There have been isolated incidents of live rounds being fired.

An anti-coup protester who was shot in the head during a February 9 demonstration in Naypyidaw died on Friday. Her doctors had confirmed to AFP that her injury was from a live bullet.

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#Newsworthy

Flood rocks Indonesia capital, Jakarta

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Jakarta, a megalopolis that is home to around 30 million people, is frequently hit by floods in the rainy season.

Whole neighbourhoods of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta and dozens of major roads were flooded on Saturday after torrential rains pounded the Southeast Asian city overnight.

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More than 1,300 residents have been evacuated to temporary shelters, with parts of the capital under four to nine feet (1.2 to 2.7 metres) of water.

Images showed rescuers on rafts battling to evacuate the elderly and children from submerged houses in hard-hit southern and eastern areas of the city, and dozens of cars were seen submerged on waterlogged streets.

National rescue agency spokesman Yusuf Latif said the floods were triggered by extreme downpours.

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“The rainfall intensity is very high due to extreme weather in Jakarta and it’s been raining since yesterday night,” Latif told AFP.

“Our top priority is children as well as infants and the elderly.”

No casualties have been reported so far, he added.

Jakarta, a megalopolis that is home to around 30 million people, is frequently hit by floods in the rainy season.

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The city saw some of its deadliest flooding in years in January last year after downpours that also triggered landslides.

At least 67 people in Jakarta and nearby cities were killed in that disaster, with the floodwaters reaching the second floor of some buildings after rivers burst their banks.

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#Newsworthy

Myanmar’s anti-coup protest births first death.

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In the northern city of Myitkyina, a small group of protesters were forcefully dispersed by police and military wielding batons

A young protester died Friday, more than a week after being shot in anti-coup demonstrations in Myanmar, offering a fresh source of anger inside the country as international pressure grows on the generals who seized power.

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Much of the country has been in open revolt since troops deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, with disparate strands of Myanmar society uniting to protest against a return to military rule.

Security forces have steadily stepped up the show — and use — of force, by deploying troops against peaceful protesters, and firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.

A rally on February 9 in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw turned violent when police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators, though doctors at the hospital later told AFP that at least two people had been critically wounded by live rounds.

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Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who turned 20 last Thursday as she lay unconscious in a hospital bed, was shot in the head. A doctor confirmed her death Friday, adding that her body will be examined as it is a “case of injustice”.

The young protester, a grocery store worker, is the first official death from the anti-coup movement since hundreds of thousands started gathering across the country two weeks ago to protest Myanmar’s return to military rule.

She has since become a symbol of resistance for protesters, hoisting her photos high in demonstrations and even unfurling a massive banner of artwork from a bridge showing the moment she was shot.

Her sister Poh Poh told reporters on Friday: “Please all join this protest movement to be more successful. That’s all I want to say.”

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She added that the burial will be on Sunday.

Military spokesman-turned-deputy information minister Zaw Min Tun said this week that authorities were investigating the case

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He also said a police officer had died in Mandalay after a confrontation with protesters Sunday.

Sanctions from UK, Canada
Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing’s death comes after an overnight announcement from Britain — Myanmar’s former colonial power — and Canada that several generals would be sanctioned over their roles in the junta’s security forces.

Freezing the assets of three top generals, the UK also said it was beginning a review to stop British businesses working with the military.

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Canada sanctioned nine Myanmar military officials and accused the junta of engaging “in a systemic campaign of repressions through coercive legislative measures and use of force”.

These actions come after US President Joe Biden last week announced Washington would cut off the generals’ access to $1 billion in funds in the US.

Burma Campaign UK’s Wai Hnin Pwint Thon said she was encouraged by the UK’s review of severing business ties with military-linked companies as “it will have an impact” if it hits coffers filled from lucrative gems, beer, and banking sectors.

But so far, “it is more a symbolic gesture than an effective one”, she said.

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Her famed activist father Mya Aye was detained the night of the coup, and she said her family still has no news of his whereabouts.

Internet shutdowns and night arrests
The country endured its fifth consecutive night of “curfew-style shutdowns”, according to monitoring group NetBlocks, reporting that the internet returned around 9 am local time.

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By noon, tens of thousands — including railway workers and teachers dressed in their uniforms to show they are boycotting work — amassed across Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, carrying posters of Suu Kyi that read “Free our leader”.

“Don’t go to the office!” they chanted. “Go strike! Go strike!”

In the northern city of Myitkyina, a small group of protesters were forcefully dispersed by police and military wielding batons, according to video posted online and witnesses.

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One teacher who was there — and now in hiding for fear of arrest — said she saw dozens arrested in the scuffle, including two of her colleagues.

“They arrested those who tried to take photos and videos… this is real injustice,” she told AFP.

Before Friday, more than 520 people have been arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group, many of them civilians taking part in the so-called “Civil Disobedience Movement”.

The junta has justified its power seizure by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.

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The Nobel laureate — who has not been seen since she was detained in dawn raids — has been hit with an obscure charge for possessing unregistered walkie-talkies, and for flouting coronavirus restrictions during campaign events.

Her hearing is expected on March 1.

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#Newsworthy

Indonesia volcano sprews red-hot lava.

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Nearby residents were told to avoid the area within a five-kilometre radius of the crater and were warned about the lava as well as airborne volcanic material.

Indonesia’s Mount Merapi, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted on Friday, belching out fiery red lava.

The volcano, close to Indonesia’s cultural capital Yogyakarta on Java island, had already spewed lava almost two dozen times over the two last days and caused hundreds of minor volcanic quakes, according to a report by Indonesia’s geological agency.

“This morning, lava avalanches were observed seven times,” the agency said, with the lava travelling up to 700 metres to the southwest.

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However, an official warning over the status of the volcano was unchanged at its second-highest level, where it has remained since November last year.

Nearby residents were told to avoid the area within a five-kilometre radius of the crater and were warned about the lava as well as airborne volcanic material.

Last month, the volcano spewed huge clouds of smoke and ash that billowed down its sides.

Mount Merapi’s last major eruption in 2010 killed more than 300 people and forced the evacuation of around 280,000 residents from surrounding areas.

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That was its most powerful eruption since 1930 when around 1,300 people were killed, while another explosion in 1994 took about 60 lives.

The Southeast Asian archipelago nation has nearly 130 active volcanoes.

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#Newsworthy

Protesters create gridlock in Yangon. [Photos]

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Myanmar’s military has a history of violence and impunity during the decades that it ruled the country before the transition to democracy began 10 years ago.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Yangon on Wednesday to show their anger at the military coup in Myanmar amid rising concern of violence in the troubled Southeast Asian nation.

Protesters had called for massive rallies on Wednesday to shatter the army’s claim that people backed its February 1 move to seize power from civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) after they were returned to government in a landslide in November’s elections.

Demonstrators staged a mass ‘breakdown’ to block roads and junctions and hamper the movement of military vehicles [Stringer/Reuters]

Along with the larger crowds, people also stopped their cars in the streets or at key junctions – their bonnets open in mass ‘breakdowns’ – as a way of thwarting any military advance.

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Tom Andrews, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said earlier he was “terrified” of an escalation in violence, saying he had received reports of troop movements around the country and feared the protesters were facing real danger.

“I fear that Wednesday has the potential for violence on a greater scale in Myanmar than we have seen since the illegal takeover of the government on February 1,” Andrews said in a statement.

“I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments – planned mass protests and troops converging – we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar.”

Internet networks were taken down for the third night in a row, but connectivity was restored on Wednesday morning, according to NetBlocks, which monitors disruption and outages, and images of the rallies widely shared.

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Protesters included civil engineers, teachers and other government workers who gathered at key locations including the UN office, carrying banners calling for Aung San Suu Kyi to be freed and the military to leave.

Myanmar’s military has a history of violence and impunity during the decades that it ruled the country before the transition to democracy began 10 years ago.

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Armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup, also directed the 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya in the western state of Rakhine, which the United Nations has said was carried out with “genocidal intent“.

Demonstrators call for the end of the military coup, as thousands took to the streets of Yangon on Wednesday after Aung San Suu Kyi was charged for breaching the country’s natural disaster management law [Lynn Bo Bo/EPA]

“The security forces’ approach could take an even darker turn fast,” the International Crisis Group warned in a briefing released on Wednesday. “Soldiers and armoured vehicles have begun to reinforce the police lines and, should the generals become impatient with the status quo, could easily become the sharp end of a bloody crackdown, as has happened in the past.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, the generals claimed they had not staged a coup and that their actions were necessary because of fraud in the November election.

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Those claims have been rejected by the elections commission, whose officials are among hundreds of people the generals have detained since seizing power.

The military insisted they would hold new elections without saying when the polls might take place.
In 1990, the military refused to accept the result after the NLD, then a newly-formed party, swept the elections.

It had earlier used force against protesters in 1988, and did so again in 2007, when a hike in fuel prices triggered mass demonstrations led by Buddhist monks.

Aung San Suu Kyi is thought to be under house arrest and on Tuesday was charged under the National Disaster Management Law with breaching COVID-19 regulations while campaigning for the elections. She has also been charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies that were found in her home.

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President Win Myint was also charged over pandemic breaches.

Teachers join protests against the military coup in Myanmar, outside the UN office in Yangon [Nyein Chan Naing/EPA]

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which is keeping track of those taken into custody, says 452 people have been detained since February 1. Some 417 remain in detention.

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#Newsworthy

14 missing, four dead in Indonesia landslide.

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Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago, where seasonal downpours are frequent and relentless.

At least four people have died and 14 are missing after a landslide caused by torrential rains swept away several homes in Indonesia, officials said Monday, with hundreds forced to flee their flooded homes.

Twenty-one people were initially reported missing, but three individuals were rescued after the disaster that struck Sunday evening in a rural part of East Java.

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Indonesia’s Search and Rescue Agency said it had found four bodies, but were still looking for 14 people reported missing.

“We cannot bring heavy equipment to the site of the landslides currently. However, we are currently trying to make our way,” the East Java Search and Rescue Agency told AFP in a written statement.

This aerial handout photo taken on February 15, 2021 and released by Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) shows the damages from a landslide in Nganjuk, East Java province, where at least two people died and 16 others are missing. (Photo by HANDOUT / Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) / AFP) /

The landslide also seriously damaged eight houses, said the agency.

Pasuruan, a town in the same province, was also flooded after a river overflowed due to the heavy rains, forcing more than 350 people to flee their homes, the agency added.

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Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago, where seasonal downpours are frequent and relentless.

In January at least 21 people died and more than 60,000 were evacuated after a series of major floods hit South Kalimantan.

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#Newsworthy

Thai pro-democracy protesters return to street.

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The pro-democracy movement, which kicked off last July, is calling for reforms to the unassailable monarchy, and the abolition of the royal defamation law is one of its key demands.

Thai pro-democracy protesters scaled a massive Bangkok monument Saturday, draping it in a crimson cloth and calling for the kingdom to abolish its draconian royal defamation laws.

Momentum for the youth-led movement calling for an overhaul to Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s government has slowed in recent months, due to a fresh wave of coronavirus infections in Thailand.

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But the recent detention of four prominent leaders has spurred protesters into action, bringing hundreds back to the Democracy Monument intersection in Bangkok’s historic quarter — under the close watch of scores of riot police.

The leaders were charged under the lese majeste law, which carries penalties of up to 15 years per charge if found guilty of insulting the monarchy.

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“I want to stress the purpose of today’s rally is to call for 112 to be abolished,” said Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, referring to the law by its penal code section.

A pro-democracy protester holding a shield stands next to a formation of riot police during an anti-government demonstration by the Grand Palace in Bangkok on February 13, 2021. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP)

After rearranging flower pots around the monument to say “112”, activists draped a massive red cloth over Democracy Monument in an act of defiance.

“If the police don’t release our friends within seven days, we will stage a big protest here at the monument,” shouted rally leader Attapon Buapat.

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As night fell, they marched to the Royal Palace but were stopped by barricades and barbed wire surrounding the area.

Scores of police in full riot gear faced off with the protesters, some of whom were wielding white shields, gas masks and helmets.

The pro-democracy movement, which kicked off last July, is calling for reforms to the unassailable monarchy, and the abolition of the royal defamation law is one of its key demands.

Their grievances with the monarchy has electrified Thai society, where frank discussion about the royals is taboo.

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At its peak, the rallies drew tens of thousands, with demonstrators drawing inspiration from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

In November, police deployed tear gas and water cannon against protesters, using liquid laced with an irritant, and clashes left more than 40 people injured.

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#Newsworthy

Breaking: UN demand Aung San Suu Kyi release.

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UN officials and diplomats alike voiced alarm at the assault on democracy in the country and violence against protesters.

The top United Nations human rights body has called on Myanmar to release Aung San Suu Kyi and other officials and to refrain from using violence on people protesting against the military coup.

The 47-member Geneva forum adopted a resolution brought by Britain and the European Union (EU) unanimously without a vote, although Russia and China said afterwards that they “disassociated” themselves from the consensus.

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Myanmar’s envoy said before the vote that the resolution was “not acceptable”.

The resolution was adopted after the UN human rights investigator for Myanmar urged the UN Security Council to consider imposing punitive sanctions, arms embargoes and travel bans in response to the coup.

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The United States, which imposed its own sanctions on Thursday, urged other UN member states to follow suit, in its first remarks to the Human Rights Council since returning to the forum this week.

Special rapporteur Thomas Andrews said there were “growing reports and photographic evidence” that Myanmar security forces had used live ammunition against protesters since seizing power almost two weeks ago.

“Security Council resolutions dealing with similar situations have mandated sanctions, arms embargoes, and travel bans, and calling for judicial action at the International Criminal Court or ad hoc tribunals,” he told the council.

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“All of these options should be on the table.”

The 47-member forum met at the request of Britain and the European Union to consider a resolution calling for the release of ousted Myanmar leader Suu Kyi, and for UN monitors to be allowed to visit. It was adopted unanimously, although Myanmar, Russia and China envoys said they “disassociated” themselves from the resolution.

Demonstrators protest in front of the Russian embassy against the military coup and demand for the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar [Reuters]

“With this resolution we would like to send a strong signal to the people of Myanmar: the protection of their human rights matters to us,” said Austrian Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger on behalf of the EU.

However, the resolution’s language had been watered down somewhat in an apparent bid to get detractors on board.

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In a letter read out to the Council earlier on Friday, some 300 elected parliamentarians called for UN investigations into the “gross human rights violations” that they said the military had committed since its coup, including arrests.

‘Draconian orders’
Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi clashed with police on Friday as hundreds of thousands joined pro-democracy demonstrations across Myanmar in defiance of the military’s call to halt mass gatherings.

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The UN’s deputy rights chief Nada al-Nashif decried the detention of the country’s elected civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, and of more than 350 others, including officials, activists, journalists, monks and students.

UN officials and diplomats alike voiced alarm at the assault on democracy in the country and violence against protesters.

“The world is watching,” al-Nashif said. “Let us be clear: the indiscriminate use of lethal or less-than-lethal weapons against peaceful protesters is unacceptable.”

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In addition, she lamented, “draconian orders have been issued this week to prevent peaceful assembly and free expression”.

Min Aung Hlaing, the head of Myanmar’s army, known as Tatmadaw, has justified his coup by alleging widespread voter fraud during November’s election.

Myanmar ambassador to the UN in Geneva Myint Thu said Myanmar would continue to cooperate with the United Nations and uphold international human rights treaties, adding: “We do not want to stall the nascent democratic transition in the country.”

The United States, which only re-engaged with the council this week after former president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, also harshly condemned the coup.

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US diplomat Mark Cassayre said all those “unjustly detained” should be released, and called for “accountability for those responsible for the coup, including through targeted sanctions”.

US President Joe Biden announced this week that his administration was cutting off the military’s access to $1bn in funds, with sanctions targeting Min Aung Hlaing and other top generals.

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#Newsworthy

Myanmar general tell protesters to return home.

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Images depicting the woman have been shared widely online alongside expressions of grief and fury.

Myanmar’s ruling general signalled waning patience Thursday with nationwide protests over the military’s takeover, ordering demonstrators to return to work or face “effective actions”.

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His warning comes after a sixth consecutive day of anti-coup rallies condemning the ouster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and follows US President Joe Biden announcing sanctions against the generals on Wednesday.

While the demonstrations have largely been peaceful, security forces earlier this week used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets, with isolated reports of live rounds being fired.

By Thursday evening, army chief General Min Aung Hlaing — who now holds legislative, judicial and executive powers — called for civil servants to return to work after days of nationwide strikes supporting the protests.

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“Due to unscrupulous persons’ incitement, some civil service personnel have failed to perform their duties,” he said in a statement.

“Effective actions will be taken.”

Since the February 1 coup, there has been an outpouring of anger and defiance, calling for the release of Suu Kyi and other detained senior figures of her National League for Democracy party.

Demonstrators again marched peacefully on Thursday in Naypyidaw — the capital and military stronghold — as well as Yangon, the largest city and commercial hub, which saw tens of thousands flood into the streets.

“Don’t go to the office,” chanted a group of protesters outside Myanmar’s central bank in Yangon, part of the effort urging people to boycott work and put pressure on the junta.

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“We aren’t doing this for a week or a month — we are determined to do this until the end when (Suu Kyi) and President U Win Myint are released,” one protesting bank employee told AFP.

Musicians take part in a protest against the military coup in Yangon on February 11, 2021. — AFP pic

Joining the protest were dozens from the ethnic Karen, Rakhine and Kachin communities — drawn from Myanmar’s roughly 130 ethnic groups, some of who have faced intense persecution from the army.

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“Our ethnic armed groups and ethnic people have to join together to fight against the military dictatorship,” Saw Z Net, an ethnic Karen protester, told AFP.

In Shan state demonstrators in traditional costumes took their anti-coup message to the water on Lake Inle, with similar scenes unfolding in the ancient UNESCO heritage city of Bagan as hundreds marched between temples and pagodas.

US sanctions
Western nations have repeatedly denounced the coup, with the United States leading calls for the generals to relinquish power.

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In the most significant concrete action, Biden announced Wednesday that his administration was cutting off the generals’ access to $1 billion in funds in the United States.

“I again call on the Burmese military to immediately release democratic political leaders and activists,” Biden said, as he flagged further sanctions.

“The military must relinquish power.”

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has also warned the bloc could impose fresh sanctions on Myanmar’s military.

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Crackdown deepens
There were more reports of arrests Thursday, including the deputy speaker of the parliament’s lower house and a key aide to Suu Kyi, taking the number of coup-linked detentions to more than 200, according to monitor Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The NLD — whose Yangon headquarters saw a raid this week — also confirmed the arrest of the election officials in the afternoon.

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The military justified last week’s power grab by claiming widespread voter fraud in November’s polls, which saw a landslide for Suu Kyi’s party.

It quickly moved to stack courts and political offices with loyalists as it ended a decade of civilian rule.

Fears are growing over how long the junta will tolerate the protests.

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Live rounds were fired at a rally in Naypyidaw this week, critically wounding two people — including a woman who was shot in the head.

Images depicting the woman have been shared widely online alongside expressions of grief and fury.

The military’s clampdown on information using internet blackouts — with tech companies ordered to cut communications intermittently — has drawn widespread condemnation.

Concern grew Thursday that the junta was planning to impose a much harsher and sustained internet crackdown.

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Tech-focused Myanmar civil society organisation MIDO tweeted that a draft cybersecurity bill had been sent to telecom companies, which would allow the military to order blackouts and website bans.

Norway-based Telenor, which had complied last week to block social media platforms where an online anti-coup campaign was proliferating, said it was reviewing the law.

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#Newsworthy

Quakes hit Indonesia’s Sumatra Island – Report.

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In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami on Sulawesi island left more than 4,300 people dead or missing.

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said, but there was no tsunami warning or immediate reports of damage.

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The strong offshore quake hit about 217 kilometres south-southwest of the city of Bengkulu at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres at 7:52 pm local time (1252 GMT).

Shallow quakes tend to cause more damage than deep ones.

The Southeast Asian archipelago experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.

More than 100 people were killed when a 6.2-magnitude quake rocked the small city of Mamuju on Sulawesi island last month.

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In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami on Sulawesi island left more than 4,300 people dead or missing.

A devastating 9.1-magnitude quake struck off the coast of Sumatra in 2004, triggering a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia — one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.

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#Newsworthy

Porsche reveals new plan in Malaysia

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Porsche was making Malaysia its Southeast Asian hub and that incentives for the investment have been approved by the Ministry of Finance.

German sports car maker Porsche AG is setting up an assembly plant in Malaysia under a partnership with trading conglomerate Sime Darby Bhd’s automotive business, The Edge Weekly reported citing sources.

The newspaper reported over the weekend that the luxury car maker will be partnering Inokom Corporation, a subsidiary of Sime Darby Motors, which is Sime Darby’s automotive arm.

Inokom will construct a new plant specifically for Porsche in Kedah, in the north of Peninsular Malaysia. The Edge reported that the value of the investment could not be ascertained.

One of the sources said Porsche was making Malaysia its Southeast Asian hub and that incentives for the investment have been approved by the Ministry of Finance.

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Another source said there have been a number of big investments entering the Malaysian automotive sector which the government has yet to declare.

Reuters has emailed Porsche and the finance ministry for comment.

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#Newsworthy

‘Up to Myanmar’ – Democrats, once again political convicts.

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Po Po, the wife of a former prominent student union leader who was detained on Monday, said she had not heard from her husband and was worried about his health.

Carrying just a small bag, Mya Aye was escorted from his home in the dead of the night by Myanmar soldiers just as an internet blackout shrouded the country and a dawn coup ousted its civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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The military takeover stunned the world and brought a decade-long democratic experiment to a shuddering halt, but for the lifelong democracy activist and other veteran critics of the country’s generals, this week’s events were all too familiar.

“He prepared a little backpack by the door with clothes and toothpaste,” said Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, the daughter of Mya Aye, of her father’s contingency plan in the event that whispered rumours of an imminent putsch proved true.

“He was arrested twice before so it’s something he is used to.”

Mya Aye is one of the leaders of the 88 Generation, a veteran pro-democracy group that came of age during an uprising against junta rule in 1988.

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That protest culminated in a brutal crackdown that saw thousands gunned down by soldiers and the rise of Suu Kyi as the national avatar of resistance to military rule.

Now 54, Mya Aye has been in and out of prison for his activism ever since.

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He is among more than a dozen activists and pro-democracy figures who have been detained by the new regime this week, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The Yangon-based monitoring group says more than 130 officials and lawmakers have also been nabbed, with other arrest reports yet to be confirmed.

It is unclear whether more detentions will follow, but news of the arrests has already cast a pall of fear over the country.

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“Activists and independent journalists have fled their homes and are now in hiding after receiving tip-offs that… they could be arrested at any time,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

  • ‘Going backwards’
    Before the generals loosened their grip on the country in 2011, Myanmar had been ruled by the military for 49 consecutive years.

Its tentative move to democracy and opening to the outside world meant a sudden flood of cheap SIM cards, giving an information-hungry people access to mobile internet at the same time as decades-old censorship laws were relaxed.

But by Saturday, Myanmar had been plunged into its second internet shutdown of the week, almost completely halting the frenetic flow of news out of the country.

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Relatives of prominent dissidents are also scared to fall afoul of the new military administration, making it difficult to confirm other rumoured arrests.

For the nephew of Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, a filmmaker previously jailed for criticising Myanmar’s military-drafted constitution, it is clear his uncle was nabbed the night of the coup because of his high standing with the public.

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“I think they arrested all dissidents who could share the right information to the public,” said Khaung Satt Naing, adding that authorities refuse to share his uncle’s whereabouts.

Po Po, the wife of a former prominent student union leader who was detained on Monday, said she had not heard from her husband and was worried about his health.

But she told AFP she fully supported Min Thway Thit’s championing of the democratic cause.

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“A military coup means we’re going backwards… I want to call for the immediate release of (all) who are currently arrested,” she said.

  • ‘Not the life we want’
    Her calls have been echoed by the international community, including US President Joe Biden who have demanded the generals “relinquish power”.

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon — herself an activist with the Burma Campaign UK lobby group — says Western countries need to impose new targeted sanctions to military-linked institutions and businesses.

She says she does not want other Myanmar people to live through the imprisonment of their loved ones.

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“The first time I saw my dad was when I was four years old through iron bars at Insein prison,” said the 32-year-old, who still has no idea about her father’s current whereabouts.

“The next generation (could) live through this again,” she added. “Children will go see their parents behind bars — this is not the life we want.”

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#Newsworthy

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Myanmar’s coup: Aung San Suu Kyi ‘detained’

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Suu Kyi went to the United Nations to defend Myanmar against the allegations.

Myanmar’s military seized power in a bloodless coup on Monday, detaining democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and declaring a one-year state of emergency.

The intervention ended a decade of civilian rule in Myanmar, with the military justifying its power grab by alleging fraud in the November elections that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won in a landslide.

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Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were detained in the capital Naypyidaw before dawn, party spokesman Myo Nyunt told AFP, just hours before parliament was meant to reconvene for the first time since the elections.

The military then declared, via its own television channel, a one-year state of emergency and announced that former general Myint Swe would become acting president for the next year.

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It alleged “huge irregularities” in the November polls that the election commission had failed to address.

“As the situation must be resolved according to the law, a state of emergency is declared,” the announcement said.

Suu Kyi issued a pre-emptive statement ahead of her detention calling on people “not to accept a coup”, according to a post on the official Facebook page of the her party’s chairperson.

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The military moved quickly to stifle dissent, severely restricting the internet and mobile phone communications across the country.

In Yangon, the former capital that remains Myanmar’s commercial hub, troops seized the city hall just ahead of the announcement, according to an AFP journalist.

AFP saw several trucks in Yangon carrying army supporters, with Myanmar flags and blaring nationalist songs, and some NLD members reported that security forces had ordered them to stay at home.

All banks across the country were also closed, and queues formed at ATMs.

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Elsewhere, the chief minister of Karen state and several other regional ministers were also held, party sources told AFP.

However, the military did not deploy masses of troops onto Yangon’s streets.

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Swift condemnation
The United States, the United Nations and Australia quickly condemned the coup, calling for a restoration of democracy.

“The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Australia said the military was “once again seeking to seize control” of the country.

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“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.

Myanmar’s November polls were only the second democratic elections the country had seen since it emerged from the 49-year grip of military rule in 2011.

The NLD won more than 80 percent of the vote — increasing its support from 2011.

Suu Kyi, 75, is an immensely popular figure in Myanmar for her opposition to the military, having spent the best part of two decades under house arrest during the previous dictatorship.

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But the military has for weeks complained the polls were riddled with irregularities, and claimed to have uncovered over 10 million instances of voter fraud.

It had demanded the government-run election commission release voter lists for cross-checking — which the commission did not do.

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Last week, military chief General Min Aung Hlaing — arguably the country’s most powerful individual — said Myanmar’s 2008 constitution could be “revoked” under certain circumstances.

Myanmar has seen two previous coups since independence from Britain in 1948, one in 1962 and one in 1988.

Suu Kyi’s previous opposition to the military earned her the Nobel peace prize.

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But her international image was shredded during her time in power as she defended the military-backed crackdown in 2017 against the country’s Muslim Rohingya community.

About 750,000 Rohingya were forced to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh during the campaign, which UN investigators said amounted to genocide.

Suu Kyi was only ever de facto leader of Myanmar as the military had inserted a clause in the constitution that barred her from being president.

The 2008 constitution also ensured the military would remain a significant force in government by retaining control of the interior, border and defence ministries.

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But to circumvent the clause preventing her from being president, Suu Kyi assumed leadership of the country via a new role of “state counsellor”.

“From (the military’s) perspective, it has lost significant control over the political process,” political analyst Soe Myint Aung told AFP.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Indonesia landslide toll jumps to 21.

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The death toll has nearly doubled from the 11 deaths reported on Sunday.

Indonesian rescuers dug through mud Wednesday as they scrambled to find survivors from weekend landslides caused by torrential rains, as the death toll rose to 21 and 19 others were listed as missing.

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A landslide struck the village of Sumedang in West Java Saturday night, followed hours later by a second that engulfed rescuers digging for survivors.

And 19 residents are still missing, including a half dozen children, but the chance of finding any of them alive was slim, said Bandung rescue agency spokeswoman Seni Wulandari.

“We are still stepping up efforts to find their bodies,” she added.

Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago, where seasonal downpours are frequent and relentless.

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In September last year, at least 11 people were killed in landslides on Borneo island, while a few months earlier landslides in Sulawesi killed dozens.

Indonesia’s disaster agency estimates that 125 million Indonesians — nearly half the country’s population — live in areas at risk of landslides.

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#Newsworthy

Thai PM, Chan-o-cha orders Police crackdown over democracy protest.

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Lawmakers have this week been discussing various proposals for constitutional change, which mostly exclude any reform to the monarchy.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered security agencies on Thursday to crack down on pro-democracy protesters, days after police used tear gas and water cannon at a Bangkok rally.

The country has been rocked since July by youth-led protests demanding a new constitution, unprecedented calls to reform the untouchable monarchy, and for Prayut to resign.

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Clashes outside parliament Tuesday between pro-democracy protesters and hardline royalists marked a steep rise in violence, with six people shot.

A day later, some 20,000 people massed in Bangkok’s main shopping district, and protesters daubed anti-royal graffiti outside the Thai National Police headquarters.

Prayut, who seized power in a 2014 coup, issued a statement Thursday warning protesters will be hit with the full force of the law.

“The situation is still not resolved in any good direction and is likely to develop into more conflict leading to more violence,” he said.

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“If this is left… it may damage the nation and the most beloved institution,” he added, referring to the monarchy.

He said the government and security agencies need to “intensify their practices”, and enforce all sections of all laws.

This could mean more charges under the country’s harsh royal defamation laws, which are routinely interpreted to include any criticism of any aspect of the monarchy — including content posted or shared on social media.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn asked the Thai government in June to suspend using the lese majeste laws, but human rights critics say there is a host of other legislation that authorities can use to target democracy activists.

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Asked if the government was giving the nod to police to pursue lese majeste charges, spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri did not rule it out.

“The protesters should respect all laws in general. We don’t specify whether we would be enacting any laws specifically,” he told AFP.

The king sits at the apex of Thai power, supported by the military and the kingdom’s billionaire clans, and the royal family enjoys support from mostly older conservatives.

On Wednesday they agreed to look at two proposals for a “constitutional drafting assembly”, while rejecting more far-reaching bills to revise the role of the royals and change the makeup of the senate.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Indonesia falls into recession in two decades.

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COVID-19 have topped 420,000 and there have been more than 14,000 deaths, putting Indonesia among the worst-hit Asian countries.

Indonesia’s virus-hit economy contracted in the third quarter, plunging it into its first recession since the archipelago was mired in the Asian financial crisis more than 20 years ago.

Activity in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy slumped 3.49 percent on-year in July-September, the statistics agency said Thursday, with tourism, construction and trade among the hardest-hit sectors.

The data marked the second consecutive quarter of contraction after a 5.3 percent decline in April-June.

Indonesia last suffered a recession in 1998 and 1999 during a regional currency crisis that helped force the resignation of its long-term dictator Suharto.

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However, the depth of the current decline was easing, the agency said, adding it pointed to stronger figures in the last quarter of the year.

The economy “continues showing a contraction year-over-year but the quarter-on-quarter recovery was quite strong”, said Anwita Basu, head of Asia Country Risk at Fitch Solutions in Singapore, highlighting a gradual pickup in manufacturing.

“Some government efforts to continue with public works is reflected in that,” she added.

Indonesia’s economy was also in better shape than two decades ago, with once-troubled commercial banks now stronger and ample foreign currency reserves at the central bank, Basu said.

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Governments around the world have been struggling to contain the coronavirus, which has forced the shutdown of vast parts of the global economy.

Indonesia’s central bank cut interest rates several times this year in a bid to boost the struggling economy, while the government has unveiled more than $48 billion in stimulus to help offset the impact of the virus, which forced a large-scale shutdown that hammered growth.

Several million Indonesians have been laid off or furloughed as the vast country, home to nearly 270 million people, has battled to contain the crisis.

However, the true scale of the crisis is widely believed to be much bigger in Indonesia, which has one of the world’s lowest testing rates.

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President Joko Widodo has been widely criticised over his government’s handling of the pandemic, as it appeared to prioritise the economy.

Boosting annual growth above five percent had been a key priority for Widodo in his second term, which began late last year.

On Monday, the president signed into law a package of pro-business bills aimed at cutting red tape and drawing more foreign investment as he pushes an infrastructure-focused policy.

But the controversial legislation has sparked mass protests in cities across the nation, as activists warned it would be catastrophic for labour and environmental protections.


#Newsworthy…

Two Myanmar soldiers sent to Hague after Rohingya murder confession.

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The two men reportedly admitted to killing dozens of villagers in northern Rakhine state, burying them in mass graves.

Two Myanmar soldiers have been taken to The Hague after confessing to murdering Rohingya minority during a 2017 crackdown, two news organisations and a rights group have reported.

The two men admitted to killing dozens of villagers in northern Rakhine state and burying them in mass graves, according to the New York Times, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the non-profit Fortify Rights, citing statements the men made on videos filmed in Myanmar this year.

NRM on Tuesday said it has not seen the videos cited by the news organisations.

Noble Reporters Media learnt it could not independently confirm that the two soldiers committed the crimes to which they confessed.

Myanmar government and military spokesmen did not answer calls seeking comment.

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The reports said the men had been in the custody of the Arakan Army group, which is now fighting Myanmar government troops in Rakhine state, when they made the admissions and were later taken to The Hague in the Netherlands, where they could appear as witnesses or face trial.

It was not clear from the reports how the men fell into the hands of the Arakan Army, why they were speaking, or how they were transported to The Hague and under whose authority.

A spokesman for the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, said it did not have the men in custody.

“No. These reports are not correct. We don’t have these persons in the ICC custody,” said the spokesman, Fadi el Abdallah.

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Payam Akhavan, a Canadian lawyer representing Bangladesh in a filing against Myanmar at the ICC, said the two men had appeared at a border post requesting the protection of the government and had confessed to the mass murder and rape of Rohingya civilians in 2017.

“All I can say is that those two individuals are no longer in Bangladesh,” he said.

A spokesman for the Arakan Army, Khine Thu Kha, said the two men were deserters and were not held as prisoners of war.

He did not comment further on where the men were now but said the group was “committed to justice” for all victims of the Myanmar military.

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Myanmar has repeatedly denied allegations of genocide, saying its military operations in 2017 were targeting Rohingya rebels who attacked police border posts.

Speaking from the Hague, NRM official said that the case had been stalled for a long time because Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the basis for ICC. But with Bangladesh being a signatory, the ICC has ruled that is has jurisdiction over the case

Myanmar soldiers on foot-patrol along makeshift tent camps for internally displaced Rohingya in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State [File: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP Photo]

“Part of the crimes that happened in Myanmar, were happening in Bangladesh as well. For example, the forced deportations, where hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya were deported to Bangladesh. That’s why the case has been speeding up since last November,” she said.

“The court has ordered the investigation to be continued and if we have these two former military men… if they say they were involved and have given a very detailed account of what they did and who was with them, then this will be an enormous move for this investigation.”

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Commenting from Amman, Antonia Mulvey, executive director of Legal Action Worldwide, said that if the evidence turns out to be credible, it would be a huge push for the investigation.

“While the ICC has made no comment on whether or not they have them [the men] in custody, the stories [of the soldiers] are said to be credible and corroborative,” she said explaining that the statements included a mention of ordered killings and rape.

“While they [the soldiers] may be very low in the ranks, we hope more will come forward. There was shown to be a clear chain of command,” she added.

The ICC is investigating the crime against humanity of forced deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh, as well as persecution and other human rights violations.

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“The office does not publicly comment on speculation or reports regarding its ongoing investigations, neither does the office discuss specifics of any aspect of its investigative activities,” a statement from the ICC prosecutor’s office said.

Myanmar is also facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice, also in The Hague, though that body does not bring cases against individuals or hear witnesses.

In 2015, before the alleged 2017 genocide, Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media Investigative Unit revealed the inner workings of the Myanmar regime, drawing on documents from the Myanmar military, an unpublished United Nations report and other government paperwork.

Those documents, assessed by Yale University Law School and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London, constituted “strong evidence” of a state-led genocide according to experts.


#Newsworthy…

1MDB probe: Malaysia drops alleged criminal charges against Goldman

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US bank had agreed to pay Malaysia $3.9bn to settle probe into its alleged role in scandal involving state fund 1MDB.

Malaysian prosecutors have withdrawn criminal charges against three Goldman Sachs units accused of misleading investors over $6.5bn in bond sales they helped organise for a state fund, the Bernama state news agency has reported.

Friday’s move comes after the US banking giant agreed to pay $3.9bn to Malaysia to settle a probe into its alleged role in the scandal involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the fund which counts former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak as one of its co-founders.

The United States Department of Justice estimates $4.5bn was misappropriated from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise.

The units – based in London, Hong Kong and Singapore – had pleaded not guilty in February and the bank has consistently denied wrongdoing.

“Goldman Sachs International Ltd, Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC and Goldman Sachs (Singapore) are therefore discharged amounting to an acquittal from all four charges made against them,” Bernama quoted High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan as saying.

The United States Department of Justice estimates $4.5bn was misappropriated from Malaysia’s 1MDB between 2009 and 2014, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise in bond sales [File: Olivia Harris/Reuters]

Lawyers for Goldman Sachs and the prosecution could not be immediately reached for comment.

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Suthe part of its deal with Malaysia, Goldman has paid $2.5bn in cash and guaranteed the return of $1.4bn in 1MDB assets seized around the world.

Goldman Sachs had to boost its legal reserves by $2.01bn to account for the Malaysia settlement, shaving its second-quarter net income by 85 percent and wiping out what had been a surprise jump in profit due to trading gains.

Malaysian prosecutors will also cease pursuing the case against Goldman Sachs’s 17 current and former directors, the Bloomberg news agency reported, quoting people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named as the information is private.

The scandal surrounding 1MDB had led to Najib’s removal in 2018 and triggered corruption investigations in at least 10 countries, including Singapore and Switzerland. Najib was found guilty of corruption last month and sentenced to 12 years in prison in the first trial over the scandal to reach a conclusion. Najib has maintained that he is innocent.


#Newsworthy…

Thai King, Maha reinstates ex consort after 10 months of stripping her of all titles

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Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn has reinstated 35-year-old Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi as his royal consort on Aug 28, the Royal Palace announced in the Royal Gazette.

“Since Ms Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi is flawless, a Royal Command was given to Ms Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi to hold the noble title of Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Bilaskalayani, along with ranks in the Royal Office and the military, and receive royal decorations of all classes,” the palace said in a Royal Gazette dated Aug 29.

According to the announcement, it is to be regarded that the royal noble consort has never previously been stripped of her noble titles, military ranks or royal decorations.

The reinstatement took place after King Vajiralongkorn stripped her of all military ranks, decorations and royal titles in October last year for being “ungrateful” and behaving “in ways unbecoming of her title”.

Her downfall came less than three months after King Vajiralongkorn granted her the title of Chao Khun Phra or royal noble consort – the first such appointment in nearly a century.

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According to the Palace’s statement on Oct 21, 2019, Sineenat had shown her objection and exerted pressure against Queen Suthida’s installation. She wished to be installed as the queen instead.

“She is also not content with the title bestowed upon her, doing everything to rise to the level of the queen. She lacks the understanding of the good traditions of the royal court. She displays disobedience against the king and the queen,” the statement said then.

Sineenat was born in the northern province of Nan on Jan 26, 1985. She graduated from the Royal Thai Army Nursing College and trained as a pilot in Thailand and abroad.

She was first bestowed the title of royal noble consort on King Vajiralongkorn’s 67th birthday in July last year.

SOURCE: NOBLE REPORTERS MEDIA, CNA


#Newsworthy

Khmer Rouge Prison Commander, Duch dies at 77.

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Duch oversaw the torture and confessions of thousands of men, women and children at Tuol Sleng, a school turned prison.


Duch, the former Khmer Rouge commander who oversaw the mass murder of at least 14,000 Cambodians at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, died on Wednesday. He was 77.

Kaing Guek Eav, who was better known by his alias Duch, was the first senior member of the Khmer Rouge to face trial for his role in a regime blamed for at least 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

Duch died at 00:52 am (17:52 GMT on Tuesday) at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, Khmer Rouge tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. He gave no details of the cause, but Duch had been ill in recent years.

In 2010, a United Nations tribunal found him guilty of mass murder, torture and crimes against humanity at Tuol Sleng, a former high school in Phnom Penh, which is now a museum and a moving memorial to those who died.

He was given a life sentence two years later after his appeal – that he was just a junior official following orders – was rejected.

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His death is “a reminder that justice is a long and difficult” process, said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which conducts research on the Khmer Rouge regime.

“Perhaps it can bring some satisfaction to the living, and the fallen can now rest in peace,” Youk told AFP news agency.

‘Smash to bits’
At Tuol Sleng, codenamed “S-21”, detainees were tortured by Khmer Rouge guards, many of them teenagers because Duch saw them as “like a blank piece of paper” and easily indoctrinated.

The guards sought confessions for non-existent crimes and were instructed to “smash to bits” traitors and counter-revolutionaries. For the Khmer Rouge, that could mean anyone from school teachers to children, to pregnant women and “intellectuals” identified simply because they wore glasses.

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Duch – himself a former maths teacher – had an obsessive eye for detail and kept his school-turned-jail meticulously organised. He maintained a huge archive of photos, confessions and other documents with which prosecutors were able to trace the harrowing final months of thousands of inmates.

“The crimes committed by the accused at S-21 are rarely matched in modern history in terms of their combined barbarity, scope, duration, premeditation and callousness,” International Co-prosecutor Bill Smith told the trial, at one point.

Duch – by the time of his trial a born-again Christian – expressed regret for his crimes.

“I would like to acknowledge my legal responsibility for all the crimes that happened at S-21, especially the torture and execution of people there,” he told the court in March 2009.

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Duch joined the Maoist movement led by Pol Pot in 1967 and was put in charge of Tuol Sleng after the regime seized power in 1975.

In their quest to build an agrarian utopia and rewrite Cambodian history the Khmer Rouge cleared cities and forced people into the countryside where they died from disease, starvation, overwork or execution. The brutality came to an end in 1979 when Vietnamese forces overthrew the regime in 1979, but Duch slipped away from S-21 and disappeared. Many assumed he had died.

Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, stands in a courtroom during a pre-trial in Phnom Penh in 2008 [File: Tang Chhinsothy/Pool via Reuters]

Total control
But in 1999, Nic Dunlop, a British photographer visiting a remote village near the Cambodia-Thai border recognised him, setting in motion a chain of events that eventually led to his arrest.

In an account of Duch and his atrocities, The Lost Executioner, Dunlop wrote that the former commander’s control in S-21 “was total”.

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“Nothing in the former schoolhouse took place without Duch’s approval,” he wrote. “Not until you walk through the empty corridors of Tuol Sleng does Stalin’s idiom that one death is a tragedy – a million a statistic, take on a terrifying potency.”

At S-21, new prisoners had their mugshots taken, and hundreds of those pictures now line the walls.

Norng Chan Phal, one of the few people to have survived S-21, was a boy when he and his parents were sent to Duch’s prison and interrogated on suspicion of having links to Vietnam, considered an enemy by the Khmer Rouge.

His parents were tortured and killed but Chan Phal survived to give testimony at Duch’s trial in 2010.

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“He was cooperative, he spoke to the court frankly. He apologised to all S-21 victims and asked them to open their hearts. He apologised to me too,” Chan Phal told Reuters.

“He apologised. But justice is not complete.”

The work of the tribunal -a hybrid court of international and Cambodian judges – was tainted by its limited scope, the age of its defendants and accusations of political meddling.

It recorded only three convictions – including Duch’s.


#Newsworthy…