Macron faces grilling from farmers at agricultural fair

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, talks with farmers as he visits the 55th International Agriculture Fair at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France, on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 25 February 2018
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Macron faces grilling from farmers at agricultural fair

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday faced heckles and whistles from French farmers angry with reforms to their sector, as he arrived for France’s annual agricultural fair.
For over 12 hours, Macron listened and responded to critics’ rebukes and questions — only to return home to the Elysee Palace with an adopted hen.
“I saw people 500 meters (yards) away, whistling at me,” Macron said, referring to a group of cereal growers protesting against a planned EU free trade pact with a South American bloc, and against the clampdown on weed-killer glyphosate.
“I broke with the plan and with the rules and headed straight to them, and they stopped whistling,” he told reporters.
“No one will be left without a solution,” he said.
Macron was seeking to appease farmers who believe they have no alternative to the widely-used pesticide — which environmental activists say probably causes cancer.
He also wanted to calm fears after France’s biggest farm union warned Friday that more than 20,000 farms could go bankrupt if the deal with the Mercosur trade bloc Brazil — the world’s top exporter of beef — as well as Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) goes ahead.
Meanwhile, Macron was under pressure over a plan to allow the wolf population in the French countryside to grow, if only marginally.
“If you want me to commit to reinforce the means of protection... I will do that,” he responded.
And he called on farmers to accept a decision on minimum price rules for European farmers — “or else the market will decide for us.”
But it wasn’t all jeers and snarls for Macron at the fair.
He left the fairground with a red hen in his arms, a gift from a poultry farm owner.
“I’ll take it — we’ll just have to find a way to protect it from the dog,” he said, referring to his Labrador, Nemo.
It was a far cry from last year, when — as a presidential candidate not yet in office — he was hit on the head by an egg launched by a protester.


World 'won't rest' on Rohingya crisis, UK's Hunt tells Suu Kyi

Updated 3 min 55 sec ago
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World 'won't rest' on Rohingya crisis, UK's Hunt tells Suu Kyi

  • The Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they joined about 300,000 already in cramped refugee camps, carrying accounts of extrajudicial killings, extreme sexual violence and arson.
  • Suu Kyi, a former pro-democracy icon, has seen a sharp fall from grace internationally due to her failure to address the Rohingya crisis.

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Thursday called for justice on the Rohingya crisis after his visit to Myanmar's Rakhine state, telling embattled leader Aung San Suu Kyi the world "won't let it rest".
Hunt's rallying cry for accountability comes at the end of a busy two-day visit during which he visited Rakhine -- the epicentre of a brutal military campaign that drove out more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims -- and met with Suu Kyi.
"Burma needs to know the international community won't let it rest," said Hunt using Myanmar's former name.
Myanmar has set up an "independent" commission to address the army's crackdown against the Rohingya, rejecting the UN probe and calls for the International Criminal Court to investigate.
"If we don't see that process happening, we will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure there is justice... the world is watching," Hunt said after the meeting, which he said was "lively" and "frank".
The British foreign minister's visit came the same week UN investigators released a damning and meticulous report detailing why six Myanmar generals should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they joined about 300,000 already in cramped refugee camps, carrying accounts of extrajudicial killings, extreme sexual violence and arson.
The evidence warrants the charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, UN investigators said.
Hunt also brought up with Suu Kyi his "concerns" on the jailing of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced earlier this month to seven years each under the state secrets act.
The pair had uncovered the extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya men in the Rakhine village of Inn Din -- something the army has since acknowledged.
Suu Kyi, who endured a total of 15 years of house arrest under the previous junta-led regime, said last week Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's sentencing upheld the rule of law.
"She said she would look into it," Hunt said Thursday.
Before the meeting, the foreign minister was led on a three-hour, tightly-managed tour of Rakhine via helicopter, which included the Taung Pyo Letwe returnee reception centre, opened to receive the refugees even though virtually no Rohingya have come back.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement last year to repatriate the Muslim minority but it has stalled as they fear returning to Rakhine without their safety and rights guaranteed.
In each of the three other locations Hunt was shepherded to, he found a pre-selected group of locals waiting to speak to him. At Pan Taw Pyin village, the final stop, he walked off to try to speak with nearby residents about their experiences despite the heavy security presence.
The military has consistently denied nearly all wrongdoing, insisting that its campaign was justified to root out militants, and Myanmar's ambassador to the UN on Tuesday slammed the UN probe as "one-sided" and "flawed".
Suu Kyi, a former pro-democracy icon, has seen a sharp fall from grace internationally due to her failure to address the Rohingya crisis.
Her supporters say her hands are tied by a still powerful military, which controls a quarter of parliament's seats and three ministries.
UN investigators say her government's "acts and omissions" contributed to the "atrocity crimes" in the crisis.
Hunt will head to New York next week for the UN General Assembly, where he will chair a foreign ministers' meeting Monday on Myanmar.
Suu Kyi will not be travelling to New York for the UN top meeting.