Vietnam deploys dancers to foil protests

Updated 17 February 2014
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Vietnam deploys dancers to foil protests

HANOI: Anti-China protesters hoping to lay wreaths at a famous statue in the Vietnamese capital on Sunday were obstructed by an unusual sight of ballroom dancers and an energetic aerobics class held to a thumping sound system.
The demonstrators suspect the government deployed the dancers as a way to stop them from getting close to the statue and make their speeches inaudible. The few who tried to get close to the statue of Ly Thai To, the founder of Hanoi and a nationalist icon, were shooed away.
The protesters were marking the 35th anniversary of a bloody border war between China and Vietnam, where anger over Beijing’s increasingly assertive territorial claims on islands in the South China Sea that Hanoi insists belong to it is already running high.
Relations with China, Vietnam’s ideological ally and major trading partner, are a highly sensitive domestic political issue for Hanoi’s rulers. They don’t want anger on the street against China to spread to other areas of its repressive rule.
Nguyen Quang A, a well-known dissident, and others attending the rally in Hanoi on Sunday said the government deployed the dancers at the statue of Ly Thai To, and at another statue nearby, to prevent them gathering there. The tactic appeared to be part of a low-key approach to policing the event to avoid confrontation. There were scores of plainclothes security officers at the rally, but very few wearing uniform.
Quang said he asked the dancers to stop for a few minutes but that they refused.
Last year the government organized old women to hold a street protest to prevent a visiting US government official from reaching a dissident’s house, where he was due to talk to him about Hanoi’s human rights record.
Around 70 people took part in Sunday’s rally close to Hoan Kiem Lake in downtown Hanoi.
They shouted anti-China slogans, and took video and photos of each other to be posted on dissident blogs and Facebook pages. After around 90 minutes, they managed to lay their wreaths commemorating the Vietnamese dead in the war at a pagoda before dispersing.
Earlier anti-China protests in the capital have resulted in demonstrators being dragged into buses or scuffles. The government is keen to avoid such images spreading on social media because they make it seem it is defending China against nationalist anger, which is widespread among many Vietnamese.


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 26 May 2019
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.