Myanmar: Killings rise as Junta consolidates power | Daily News

Myanmar: Killings rise as Junta consolidates power

Refugees flee Myanmar for Thailand after airstrikes.
Refugees flee Myanmar for Thailand after airstrikes.

The situation in Myanmar has gravely worsened with the numbers killed exceeding 500, armed ethic groups declaring defence from the government, citizens fleeing to neighbouring countries seeking refuge, and more sanctions being imposed by Western countries.

Airstrikes by the junta on the ethnic Karen regions on the border with Thailand has worsened the situation, with more than 3,000 moving across the Salween River seeking refuge in Thailand. They are held in special camps by the Thai government.

The Karen National Union (KNU), one of Myanmar’s biggest armed ethnic groups, has joined other such armies in declaring it will defend itself from government troops.

“There is no legitimate reason to kill, harm and terrorize innocent people, including women, elders and children, in the dead of night,” the statement says.

The KNU urges the international community “to cut all ties with Myanmar’s armed forces, including military and economic relationships.”

The Committee Representing Union Parliament (CRPH), leading the current civilian protests, issued a statement welcoming the announcement by three armed ethnic insurgent groups denouncing the ongoing military violence and pledging to protect the people. “CRPH has called on them to work together for the success of the revolution and establishment of a federal democratic union,” the CRPH statement says.

Ethnic armed groups of the northern alliance -- Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army -- have demanded the “Myanmar military to stop killing and violating the rights of unarmed civilians and to find a political solution.” They also announced that they will defend the people if the military continues its brutality against civilians.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commenting on the weekend bloodshed in Myanmar said: “My message to the Myanmar military is simple: Stop the killings”. “Stop the repression of the demonstrations; release the political prisoners; and return power to those who have a legitimate right to exercise it.”

The U.S. has stopped all trade engagement with Myanmar under a 2013 trade and investment agreement that was adopted during Myanmar’s earlier transition to democracy. This engagement will remain suspended “until the return of a democratically elected government,” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said.

“The United States supports the people of Burma in their efforts to restore a democratically elected government, which has been the foundation of Burma’s economic growth and reform,” says Ambassador Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative.

Junta leader Gen. Ming Aung Hlaing had said in early February that the change in government in Myanmar would result in no change in economic policy or the country’s stance toward foreign investment.

The US, Canada, Britain and the European Union had imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military generals. International organisations, including the United Nations, have continuously condemned the crackdown.

A series of airstrikes by Myanmar’s military has driven thousands of people across the country’s border with Thailand, adding a new dimension to an already volatile and deadly crisis.

The strikes in areas populated predominantly by ethnic Karen people began on Saturday. Since then an estimated 3,000 villagers have fled across the Salween River into Thailand and an unknown number have become internally displaced in the jungles on the Myanmar side of the river.

The government has battled Karen fighters on and off for years, as it has with other minority ethnic groups, seeking more autonomy; but the airstrikes are a worrying development at a time when the junta is violently suppressing anti-coup protests.

Leaders of the resistance to last month’s military coup that toppled Myanmar’s elected government are calling for the Karen and other et

hnic groups to band together and join them as allies in a “federal army”, which would add an armed element to their struggle.

China sanctions

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has warned that China’s tit-for-tat sanctions against two Americans, and its allies, in the growing dispute over Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs were “baseless” and would only shine a harsh spotlight on the “genocide” in Xinjiang.

“Beijing’s attempts to intimidate and silence those speaking out for human rights and fundamental freedoms only contribute to the growing international scrutiny of the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” Blinken said.

He spoke after China announced sanctions against two Americans, a Canadian and a rights advocacy body, in response to sanctions imposed this week by the two countries over Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority.

The US, Canada and the EU have sanctioned several members of Xinjiang’s political and economic leadership over allegations regarding alleged human rights violations against Uighur people, prompting retaliation from Beijing in the form of sanctions against individuals from US, Canada and the EU.

Blinken’s statement also said: We stand in solidarity with Canada, the UK, and the EU and other partners and allies around the world in calling on the PRC to end human rights violations and abuses against predominantly Muslim Uighurs and members of other ethnic and minorities in Xinjiang and release those arbitrarily detained.

The individuals under Beijing’s sanctions are banned from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with the three individuals or having any exchanges with the subcommittee.

“The Chinese government is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and urges the relevant parties to clearly understand the situation and redress their mistakes,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

“They must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs in any form and refrain from going farther down the wrong path. Otherwise they will get their fingers burning.

UK on China

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to make developing countries less dependent on China economically, as he met fi

ve MPs sanctioned by China.

The prime minister talked about exploring ways towards alleviation programmes to offset the level of dependency on China through the Belt and Road initiative.

The prime minister tweeted Saturday: “This morning I spoke with some of those who have been shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims. I stand firmly with them and the other British citizens sanctioned by China.”

China’s sanctions raised the possibility of longer-term damage to the already frosty U.K.-China relationship, which has been damaged over the national security law in Hong Kong.

The five parliamentarians — three MPs, including ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, and two members of the House of Lords — are part of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. Beijing sanctioned a total of nine British citizens over what it called “lies and disinformation” about human rights abuses against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

“We are delighted that the Prime Minister agreed to meet us today to express his solidarity with Parliamentarians and other British citizens sanctioned by the Chinese government,” the five IPAC members said in a statement. “Our focus is not on these sanctions, but on the victims of the Chinese Communist Party. We take this opportunity to raise again the plight of the Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and other groups subject to persecution by the Chinese government.”

Brazil: Political tensions

Prominent leaders of Brazil’s opposition have called for President Jair Bolsonaro to be immediately removed from office to prevent his “coup-mongering, authoritarian delusions” becoming a reality.

Bolsonaro’s decision to sack Brazil’s Defence Minister Gen Fernando Azevedo e Silva – and the subsequent departures of the heads of all three branches of the military – has sent political shockwaves through the world’s fourth-largest democracy.

“There is an attempt here by the president to arrange a coup – it is under way already – and that is why we are reacting,” claimed Alessandro Molon, the leader of the opposition in the lower house, as the impeachment request was presented to congress.

Defence Minister Gen Azevedo e Silva was relieved of his duties on Monday. Hours later, on Tuesday morning, the heads of the army, air force and navy were reportedly dismissed during an ill-tempered meeting after Bolsonaro had discovered they were poised to resign in protest.

The sudden and dramatic fissure between Brazil’s far-right president and the military men who helped bring him to power in 2018, indicates that senior members of the armed forces had decided to ditch Bolsonaro’s crisis-stricken administration – partly out of frustration at his calamitous handling of an uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak that has killed nearly 320,000 Brazilians.

The military chiefs may have been trying to protect Brazilian democracy after Bolsonaro, a former army captain known for his admiration of dictators, attempted some kind of authoritarian move such as a self-coup, by which a democratically elected leader takes on dictatorial powers.

Bolsonaro’s fears over his ability to secure a second term appear to have intensified in recent months, with polls showing his handling of COVID has dented support and the unexpected re-emergence of his political nemesis Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula, a charismatic former union leader who led Brazil from 2003 until 2011, was prevented from challenging Bolsonaro in the 2018 election because of a corruption conviction that was recently quashed. But the 75-year-old now looks likely to run against Bolsonaro in 2022, and has spent recent weeks attacking his rival’s “moronic” handling of coronavirus.

Political analysts see the president’s removal would only be possible if society mobilized against his “authoritarian misdemeanours”. In the wake of this week’s political crisis there are opposition calls to citizens who cherish democracy – including those who voted Bolsonaro into power – to wake up to the threat.

It was a military coup that plunged Brazil into dictatorship 57 years ago, on April 1, 1964. Bolsanaro has also been a strong supporter of US President Donald Trump, and followed similar policies in handling the COVID pandemic - making it the worst affected country today.

George Floyd murder

The case on the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US began this week and is drawing international attention. Leading TV news services are reporting the case directly from the court.

George Floyd, a Black citizen, died due to inability to breathe, when he was held by the police, with the knee of a policeman pressing on his neck for more than eight minutes, after his arrest and being handcuffed.

The person charged for the murder, a Derek Chauvin, a white policeman.

His defence is seeking to show that his death was not due to suffocation caused by the police action, but was due to his other physical ailments and the drugs he has been taking.

The prosecution showed the entire recording of the incident from the phone of a witness, which lasted more than nine minutes, enabling the jurors to obtain a view of what reportedly took place at the incident last year.

The person who made this recording and several other other witnesses who saw the incident, including minors - 18 years and below - gave evidence, being questioned by both the prosecution and defence.

Donald Williams III, a witness for the prosecution, said Mr. Floyd was “slowly fading away” during the nine minutes Mr. Chauvin kneeled on his back and neck.

Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer argued his use of force was “unattractive but necessary”.

This trial is being seen by many as a pivotal moment in US race relations.

The May 2020 incident - in which Mr. Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd, a black man, in the city of Minneapolis - sparked protests in the US and across the world against police brutality and racism.

Mr. Chauvin, 45, who was dismissed from the police, denies murder and manslaughter charges, which carry sentences of up to 40 years in prison. Three other officers present will go on trial later in the year.

Witness Donald Williams said he could see Mr. Floyd’s life slipping away. “He’s slowly fading away like a fish in a bag,” he said. “His eyes slowly rolled to the back of his head” until “he didn’t have no life in him no more in his body”.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told jurors that Mr. Floyd said 27 times that he could not breathe. The tape proves Mr. Chauvin was “engaging in behaviour that was imminently dangerous... without regard for its impact on the body of George Floyd,” Mr. Blackwell said.

Defence lawyer Eric Nelson, in his opening statements, said that the evidence “is far greater than nine minutes and 29 seconds” of video footage, and the evidence would show Mr. Floyd “died of a cardiac arrhythmia, that occurred as a result of hypertension, coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl, and adrenaline flowing through his 


WHO - COVID source?

World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged a deeper investigation into whether the coronavirus outbreak originated with a leak from a lab, as world leaders pushed for a treaty to prepare for future pandemics.

A report by WHO and Chinese experts, published Tuesday, judged the lab-leak hypothesis highly unlikely, saying the virus behind COVID-19 had probably jumped from bats to humans via an intermediary animal.

But a potential leak “requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts”, Tedros said.

He added that the international team had difficulty accessing raw data during the mission to China, demanding “more timely and comprehensive data-sharing” in the future.

The United States, in a statement with 13 allies including Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan and South Korea, voiced concern over the report and said that the mission to China “was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples”.

“It is critical for independent experts to have full access to all pertinent human, animal and environmental data, research, and personnel involved in the early stages of the outbreak relevant to determining how this pandemic emerged,” said the statement, without explicitly criticising China.

“We share these concerns not only for the be

nefit of learning all we can about the origins of this pandemic, but also to lay a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crises,” it said.

The other nations that signed the joint statement were the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Slovenia.

Members of the international team that wrote the report said Tuesday that it was only a “first start” and more needed to be done.

They appealed for patience as reams of information continue to pour in. The team emphasised that hypotheses, including a possible laboratory leak, could not be fully ruled out.

The report was released more than a year into the pandemic that has killed nearly 2.8 million people worldwide, with several countries battling new waves of infections.

Before its release, world leaders called for a new international treaty to better fight future pandemics and for countries to be ready if – or when – another hits.

Coronavirus spread

The new spread of the coronavirus in different parts of the world - Europe, South America and South Asia - is raising more concerns, after the expectations of a decline of the pandemic in recent weeks.

Apart from the US, which remains the country 

with the highest infections, there is now Brazil and India having a huge spread, and France being compelled to impose new restrictions to curb the spread.

Brazil has seen a sharp rise in infections and deaths, leading to major political issues, challenging the leadership of President Bolsanaro. The deaths are exceeding 3,000 a day, and many hospitals are unable to cope with the numbers seeking treatment.

India has recorded a massive surge in the number of COVID-19 cases. The country’s tally of infections has soared to 12,221,665. With active cases hitting 584,055, India is now the 5th-worst hit country. The death toll from the deadly infection jumped to 162,960.

Maharashtra on Wednesday reported as many as 39,544 new coronavirus cases, its second-highest single-day rise in infection tally since the pandemic began. The surge in COVID-19 cases continued in Delhi with 1,819 new cases being reported in the last 24 hours.

The five most affected states by total cases are Maharashtra (2,812,980), Kerala (1,119,542), Karnataka (989,804), Andhra Pradesh (899,812), and Tamil Nadu (881,752).

In France, President Emmanuel Macron extended light lockdown measures to all of mainland France from April 3 for 4 weeks at a televised address on the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday.

He said: “We don’t have to lock ourselves in but we need to limit our contacts…. We tried to push back this day for as long as possible – but unfortunately it has now arrived... We will lose control if we do not act now.”

Here are the figures of infections and deaths at the time of writing: Global - 128,944,358 infections and 2,816,938 deaths. US - 30,460,344 (552,072), Brazil - 12,748,747 (321,515), India- 12,221,665 (162,927, France - 4,705,074 (95,758), Russia - 4,503,291 (97,594), UK- 4, 359,984 (126,955), Italy - 3,584,899 (69,346), Spain - 3,284,353 (5,459) and Germany - 2,843,644 (76,589).

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for more debt relief for the poorest countries struggling with economic fallout from the pandemic. He urged a “new debt mechanism” allowing such options as debt swaps, buy-backs and cancellations to help worse-off countries.

Addressing an online forum that included dozens of world leaders, he said the pandemic has pushed the world to “the verge of a debt crisis” and required “urgent action”...“We need to change the rules,” he said.