Myanmar’s Suu Kyi welcomed to Australia amid protests

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, left, is welcomed to Parliament House by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during her state visit in Canberra on Monday, March 19. (AAP Image via AP)
Updated 19 March 2018
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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi welcomed to Australia amid protests

CANBERRA, Australia: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi was feted in Australia with a military honor guard and 19-gun salute Monday as part of a state visit that has provoked protests over her response to her country’s violent campaign against Rohingya Muslims.
Suu Kyi arrived in Sydney over the weekend for a summit of Southeast Asian leaders and her state visit officially began Monday, when she was welcomed to Parliament House in Canberra. Her visit comes as she faces international criticism over what has become Asia’s worst refugee crisis in decades.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since August, when the military responded to insurgent attacks on police with a clearance operation that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing. The campaign has included the burning of Rohingya villages, systematic rape, shootings and other rights violations.
There was no press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull or any public comment from Suu Kyi during her brief visit to the capital on Monday. She had meetings with the prime minister and opposition leader.
Turnbull said Sunday that Suu Kyi had used the weekend summit to seek humanitarian help from her fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Australia to deal with the crisis.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told the summit that the refugee crisis was no longer solely a domestic issue for Myanmar, as fleeing Rohingya could be prime targets for terrorist radicalization.
Myanmar staunchly denies that its security forces have targeted Rohingya civilians and Suu Kyi has bristled at the international criticism.
But Myanmar’s denials have appeared increasingly tenuous as horrific accounts from refugees have accumulated and satellite imagery and other evidence of destroyed Rohingya villages have been assembled.
The Associated Press last month documented through video and witness accounts at least five mass graves of Rohingya civilians. Witnesses said the military used acid to erase the identity of victims. The government denied it, maintaining that only “terrorists” were killed and then “carefully buried.”
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, was a longtime political prisoner of Myanmar’s former junta and frequently called for international intervention in her country during her almost 15 years under house arrest. She was released in 2010 and last visited Canberra in 2013 on an Australian tour, before she was allowed to stand for an election that her party eventually won in a landslide.
Then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott described her as an “icon of democracy” as he stood by her side at a joint press conference. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Suu Kyi had inspired her to enter politics.
Suu Kyi’s global image has since taken a battering. She has seen several international honors she was given in the past revoked. Several fellow Peace Prize winners have publicly condemned her.
Though Suu Kyi has been the de facto head of Myanmar’s civilian government since her party took power, she is limited in her control of the country by a constitution written by the outgoing junta. The military has effective veto power over all legislation and controls key ministries including those overseeing security and defense.
The military is in charge of operations involving the Rohingya and ending them is not up to Suu Kyi.
Yet even when Suu Kyi has spoken on the issue, she has drawn criticism. In a September speech, her first public comments on the crisis, she asked for patience from the international community and suggested the refugees were partly responsible.
Suu Kyi faces a potential domestic backlash if she speaks on behalf of the Rohingya, who have been the target of anti-Muslim rhetoric. Many people agree with the official government stance that there is no such ethnicity as Rohingya and that those in the country have illegally migrated from Bangladesh.
Myanmar’s backers globally have also had to tread carefully, not wanting to undermine Suu Kyi’s weak civilian government at a time when the country is just emerging from decades of authoritarian rule.
Unlike the United Nations, United States and Britain, Australia has not accused Myanmar of “ethnic cleansing” or “crimes against humanity.”
But Australia did support a UN resolution in December condemning the “very likely commission of crimes against humanity” by Myanmar security forces against Rohingya.
Human rights groups have criticized Australia for maintaining its limited military engagement with Myanmar. Australia provides English-language lessons and training courses to Myanmar officers to “promote professionalism and adherence to international laws,” according to the defense department.
But Australia maintains a long-standing arms embargo with Myanmar.


More than 70 countries commit to combat terror financing

Updated 26 April 2018
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More than 70 countries commit to combat terror financing

  • Participants at an international conference in Paris agreed to “fully criminalize” terror financing
  • The two-day event was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron

PARIS: More than 70 countries committed Thursday to bolster efforts in the fight against terrorism financing associated with Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
Participants at an international conference in Paris agreed to “fully criminalize” terror financing through effective and proportionate sanctions “even in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act.”
The two-day event was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron to coordinate efforts to reduce the terror threat in the long-term.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Abdel Al-Jubeir and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani were all present.
Macron, who has returned to France from a state visit to the United States, is expected to close the conference later with a call for the necessity for multilateral action.
Daniel Lewis, executive secretary of the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force, said he is hoping that words will be put into action.
“When we have information — for example the UN list of individuals and entities financing terrorism — we need to make sure measures like asset freezing are implemented fully and quickly,” Lewis told The Associated Press.
Participants called for better information-sharing between intelligence services, law enforcement, financial businesses and the technology industry. They also agreed to improve the traceability of funds going to non-governmental organizations and charity associations.
Participants included countries that have accused each other of funding terrorism, notably in the Arabian Gulf.
France has pushed for international coordination and more transparency in financial transactions. But it has recognized how sensitive the issue is, and saw the conference as a first step for coordinated action.
The French organizers noted that Daesh military defeats on the ground have not prevented the group from pursuing its terrorist activities, along with Al-Qaeda — especially in unstable regions of Afghanistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Yemen, Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa.
Terror groups don’t only rely on the cash economy — they’re using increasingly hard-to-track tools like prepaid cards, online wallets and crowdfunding operations.
Daesh has also invested in businesses and real estate to ensure its financing. Daesh revenues alone were estimated at $2.5 billion between 2014 and 2016, according to the French president’s office.
Though most of the attacks in Western countries do not cost a lot of money, a French official said terror groups “behave like big organizations” in that it “costs a lot to recruit, train, equip people and spread propaganda.” The official was speaking anonymously under the presidency’s customary practice.
The French counterterrorism prosecutor Francois Molins told FranceInfo radio that Daesh uses micro-financing techniques to collect a great number of small amounts of money.
Work with the financial intelligence unit helped identify 416 people in France who have donated money to Daesh over the last two years, he said.
Money, he said, went to “320 collectors mostly based in Turkey and Lebanon from whom jihadis in Iraq and Syria could receive funds.”
In recent years, the US and other Western nations have encouraged Middle Eastern nations to close off such sources.
However, allegations over extremist funding in part sparked a near-yearlong boycott of Qatar by four Arab states.
Qatar denies funding extremists, though it has faced Western criticism about being lax in enforcing rules.
Participants agreed to hold a similar conference next year in Australia.