Britain suspends Myanmar military training

Myanmar soldiers arrive at Buthidaung jetty in Myanmar's Rakhine State, in this August 29, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2017
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Britain suspends Myanmar military training

LONDON: Britain said Tuesday it had suspended its educational training courses for the Myanmar military due to the ethnic violence in Rakhine state.
London said it had “deep concern” about human rights abuses and would not be resuming the military courses unless there was an “acceptable resolution” to the ongoing Rohingya crisis.
Communal violence has torn through Myanmar’s western Rakhine state since Muslim minority Rohingya militants staged deadly attacks on police posts on August 25.
An army-led fightback has left scores dead and sent more than 420,000 Rohingya fleeing the mainly Buddhist country into neighboring Bangladesh.
“The action the military are taking against the Rohingya people needs to stop,” British Prime Minister Theresa May told the UK’s Sky News in New York.
“There will be no further defense engagement or training of the Burmese military by the Ministry of Defense until there’s a resolution of this issue.”
In London, a government spokesman said in a statement: “In light of the ongoing violence in Burma’s Rakhine state, the growing humanitarian crisis it has caused, and our deep concern about the human rights abuses that are taking place, we have decided to suspend the educational courses provided to the Burmese military until there is an acceptable resolution to the current situation.
“We call on the Burmese armed forces to take immediate steps to stop the violence in Rakhine and ensure the protection of all civilians, to allow full access for humanitarian aid and to facilitate the civilian government’s implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations in full.”
The year-long commission, led by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, tasked with healing divisions between the Rohingya and local Buddhists, urged immediate action to heal the divide.


Britain’s junior foreign minister Mark Field has said the UK armed forces provided vocational courses, focused on language training, governance, accountability, ethics, human rights and international law to the Myanmar military.
“Exposing them to how modern militaries operate in a democracy is more effective than isolating them,” he told parliament on September 5.
Britain did not provide combat training, Field said.
“The UK is, and will remain, a very strong supporter of continuing the EU arms embargo” on Myanmar, he added.
Some 150 members of parliament wrote to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on September 6 calling for the training program to be suspended.
Burma Campaign UK, which has been calling for an end to the training program ever since it started in 2013, said it was “incredible” that the halt had taken so long to reach.
“Ending this training should have been a no-brainer, not something to dither over for three weeks while ethnic cleansing happens,” said the group’s director Mark Farmaner.
He called the training a “catastrophic misjudgment.”
“A major rethink on policy is now needed and a return to putting human rights first,” he said.


10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

Updated 6 min 22 sec ago
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10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

  • Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police.
  • Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
MANAGUA: Violent protests against a proposed change to Nicaragua's pension system have left at least 10 people dead over two days, the government said Friday.
In the biggest protests in President Daniel Ortega's 11 years in office in this poor Central American country, people are angry over the plan because workers and employers would have to chip in more toward the retirement system.
The government is willing to hold a dialogue and Ortega will issue a formal call on Saturday, Vice President Rosario Murillo said, adding: "At least 10 compatriots have died."
Demonstrations rocked the capital Managua and nearby cities for a third day.
The new law, besides increasing employer and employee contributions, would cut the overall pension amount by five percent.
"We are against these reforms, which means we're against this government taking from the pockets of Nicaraguans," said Juan Bautista.
He said riot police brutally attacked demonstrators like him because "the dictator does not like people to protest."
A woman nearby shouted: "The people are tired of this repression!"
Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police. Other students took refuge in nearby buildings or residences.
In Las Colinas, south of the capital, demonstrators raised small barricades and with their hands raised asked the riot police not to target them.
Four independent television outlets were taken off the air after they broadcast the demonstrations on Thursday, and two were still blocked on Friday.
Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
The opposition said more than 20 people were wounded while the writers group Pen Nicaragua said that at least 11 journalists were attacked while covering the demonstrations.
"We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to act to prevent further attacks on demonstrators and on the media," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights."
She urged the government to let people "exercise their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and association," and urged protesters to demonstrate "peacefully."
She also said demonstrators were attacked by government supporters in the city of Masaya.
Miguel Mora, director of the private television channel 100% Noticias -- which the government blocked -- accused Ortega of applying the same censorship he imposed in the 1980s during the Sandinista Revolution.
When Ortega returned to power in 2007 he promised to "never censor a media outlet -- and today he is doing just that," Mora told Channel 14.