Myanmar military seizes power, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party post call for protests

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, shown in this photo taken in 2019, was reportedly placed under house arrest in a rumored military coup taking place in the troubled Southeast Asian nation. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo, File)
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Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, shown in this photo taken in 2019, was reportedly placed under house arrest in a rumored military coup taking place in the troubled Southeast Asian nation. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo, File)
Myanmar military vehicles are seen inside City Hall in Yangon on February 1, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Myanmar military vehicles are seen inside City Hall in Yangon on February 1, 2021. (REUTERS)
Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R), shown with Lower House speaker Win Myint in this March 14, 2016 photo, has been detained by the military in an apparent coup. (AFP)
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Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R), shown with Lower House speaker Win Myint in this March 14, 2016 photo, has been detained by the military in an apparent coup. (AFP)
Myanmar military seizes power, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party post call for protests
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Soldiers blockaded roads to Myanmar's parliament in Naypyidaw on Feb. 1, 2021, after the military detained the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. (AFP)
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Updated 03 February 2021

Myanmar military seizes power, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party post call for protests

Myanmar military seizes power, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party post call for protests
  • US, Australia and others express concern reports and urge Myanmar’s military to respect the rule of law
  • The military had this week refused to rule out seizing power over its claims of voter fraud in November’s elections

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar: Myanmar’s military staged a coup Monday and detained senior politicians including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi — a sharp reversal of the significant, if uneven, progress toward democracy the Southeast Asian nation has made following five decades of military rule.
An announcement read on military-owned Myawaddy TV said Commander-in-Chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing would be in charge of the country for one year. It said the seizure was necessary because the government had not acted on the military’s claims of fraud in November’s elections — in which Suu Kyi’s ruling party won a majority of the parliamentary seats up for grabs — and because it allowed the election to go ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic.

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The takeover came the morning the country’s new parliamentary session was to begin and follows days of concern that a coup was coming. The military maintains its actions are legally justified — citing a section of the constitution it drafted that allows it to take control in times of national emergency — though Suu Kyi’s party spokesman as well as many international observers have said it amounts to a coup.
It was a dramatic backslide for Myanmar, which was emerging from decades of strict military rule and international isolation that began in 1962. It was also a shocking fall from power for Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate who had lived under house arrest for years as she tried to push her country toward democracy and then became its de facto leader after her National League for Democracy won elections in 2015.




Myanmar military vehicles are seen inside City Hall in Yangon on February 1, 2021. (REUTERS)

While Suu Kyi had been a fierce antagonist of the army while under house arrest, since her release and return to politics, she has had to work with the country’s generals, who never fully gave up power. While the 75-year-old has remained wildly popular at home, Suu Kyi’s deference to the generals — going so far as to defend their crackdown on Rohingya Muslims that the United States and others have labeled genocide — has left her reputation internationally in tatters.
For some, Monday’s takeover was seen as confirmation that the military holds ultimate power despite the veneer of democracy. New York-based Human Rights Watch has previously described the clause in the constitution that the military invoked as a “coup mechanism in waiting.”
The embarrassingly poor showing of the military-backed party in the November vote may have been the spark.
 

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ALSO READ: Governments around the world condemn Myanmar’s military coup

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Larry Jagan, an independent analyst, said the takeover was just a “pretext for the military to reassert their full influence over the political infrastructure of the country and to determine the future, at least in the short term,” adding that the generals do not want Suu Kyi to be a part of that future.
The coup now presents a test for the international community, which had ostracized Myanmar while it was under military rule and then enthusiastically embraced Suu Kyi’s government as a sign the country was finally on the path to democracy. There will likely be calls for a reintroduction of at least some of the sanctions the country had long faced.
The first signs that the military was planning to seize power were reports that Suu Kyi and Win Myint, the country’s president, had been detained before dawn.
Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s party, told the online news service The Irrawaddy that in addition to Suu Kyi and the president, members of the party’s Central Executive Committee, many of its lawmakers and other senior leaders had also been taken into custody.




Myanmar's Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, shown in this December 2, 2015 photo shaking hands with de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, seized power on Monday and detained the elected leaders. (REUTERS file photo)

Television signals were cut across the country, as was phone and Internet access in Naypyitaw, the capital, while passenger flights were grounded. Phone service in other parts of the country was also reported down, though people were still able to use the Internet in many areas.
As word of the military’s actions spread in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, there was a growing sense of unease among residents who earlier in the day had packed into tea shops for breakfast and went about their morning shopping.
By midday, people were removing the bright red flags of Suu Kyi’s party that once adorned their homes and businesses. Lines formed at ATMs as people waited to take out cash, efforts that were being complicated by Internet disruptions. Workers at some businesses decided to go home.
Suu Kyi’s party released a statement on one of its Facebook pages saying the military’s actions were unjustified and went against the constitution and the will of voters. The statement urged people to oppose Monday’s “coup” and any return to “military dictatorship.” It was not possible to confirm who posted the message as party members were not answering phone calls.
The military’s actions also received international condemnation and many countries called for the release of the detained leaders.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed “grave concern and alarm” over the reported detentions.
“We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections,” he wrote in a statement, using Myanmar’s former name.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the developments a “serious blow to democratic reforms,” according to his spokesman. The Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on the military’s actions. Britain, which currently holds the council presidency, said it will probably take place Tuesday.
The UN high commissioner for human rights said in a statement that, in addition to politicians, the people detained included human rights defenders, journalists and activists.
In addition to announcing that the commander in chief would be charge, the military TV report said Vice President Myint Swe would be elevated to acting president. Myint Swe is a former general best known for leading a brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks in 2007. He is a close ally of Than Shwe, the junta leader who ruled Myanmar for nearly two decades.
In a later announcement, the military said an election would be held in a year and the military would hand power to the winner.
The military justified its move by citing a clause in the 2008 constitution, implemented during military rule, that says in cases of national emergency, the government’s executive, legislative and judicial powers can be handed to the military commander-in-chief.
It is just one of many parts of the charter that ensured the military could maintain ultimate control over the country. The military is allowed to appoint its members to 25 percent of seats in Parliament and it controls of several key ministries involved in security and defense.
In November polls, Suu Kyi’s party captured 396 out of 476 seats up for actual election in the lower and upper houses of Parliament.
The military has charged that there was massive fraud in the election — particularly with regard to voter lists — though it has not offered any convincing evidence. The state Union Election Commission last week rejected its allegations.
Concerns of a takeover grew last week when a military spokesman declined to rule out the possibility of a coup when asked by a reporter to do so at a news conference on Tuesday.
Then on Wednesday, the military chief told senior officers in a speech that the constitution could be revoked if the laws were not being properly enforced. An unusual deployment of armored vehicles in the streets of several large cities also stoked fears.
On Saturday and Sunday, however, the military denied it had threatened a coup, accusing unnamed organizations and media of misrepresenting its position.


WHO chief scientist says Omicron ‘quite infectious’, must not panic

WHO chief scientist says Omicron ‘quite infectious’, must not panic
Updated 03 December 2021

WHO chief scientist says Omicron ‘quite infectious’, must not panic

WHO chief scientist says Omicron ‘quite infectious’, must not panic
  • WHO has urged countries to boost healthcare capacity and vaccinate their people
  • "We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we're in a different situation to a year ago," WHO’s chief scientist said

DUBAI: The World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told the Reuters Next conference on Friday that while the new coronavirus variant Omicron appeared to be very transmissible, the right response was to be prepared, cautious and not panic.
The WHO has urged countries to boost health care capacity and vaccinate their people to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, saying travel curbs could buy time but alone were not the answer.
“How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago,” Swaminathan said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference.
While the emergence of the new variant was unwelcome, she said the world was much better prepared given the development of vaccines since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much remains unknown about Omicron, which was first detected in southern Africa last month and has been spotted in at least two dozen countries. Parts of Europe were already grappling with a wave of infections of the Delta variant before it emerged.
“We need to wait, lets hope it’s milder ... but it’s too early to conclude about the variant as a whole,” Swaminathan said of what was known about Omicron.
“Delta accounts for 99 percent of infections around the world. This variant would have to be more transmissible to out-compete and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but it’s not possible to predict.”
The WHO’s top scientist said the Omicron variant seemed to be causing three times more infections than experienced previously in South Africa, meaning “it does seem to be able to overcome some of the natural immunity from previous infection.”
Vaccines did appear to be having some effect.
“The fact that they’re not getting sick .... that means the vaccines are still providing protection and we would hope that they would continue to provide protection,” Swaminathan said.
Asked about the need for annual vaccine boosters, she said “the WHO is preparing for all scenarios,” which could include an additional dose, particularly among some age groups or vulnerable sections of the population, or a modified vaccine.
“Natural infection acts as a booster,” the WHO scientist said, adding that while the new variant “could have originated in a country where there isn’t a great deal of genome sequencing,” its origins were not known.
“We may never know,” Swaminathan said.


OIC-IPHRC calls for human rights-based approach to design national policies during post-pandemic recovery 

OIC-IPHRC calls for human rights-based approach to design national policies during post-pandemic recovery 
Updated 03 December 2021

OIC-IPHRC calls for human rights-based approach to design national policies during post-pandemic recovery 

OIC-IPHRC calls for human rights-based approach to design national policies during post-pandemic recovery 

LONDON: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission joins the international community in commemorating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021 with an emphatic appeal to sign and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and calls on members to design their respective national policies and post-pandemic recovery efforts based on human rights-based approaches. 

The ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic has aptly highlighted that protection, response, and recovery efforts will not be effective unless everyone is equally valued and included, the OIC-IPHRC statement said, urging action to ensure persons with disabilities are included in public emergency planning, health responses, and recovery efforts.

According to the World Health Organization, there are at least one billion people with disabilities worldwide, of which 80 percent live in developing countries, which include OIC states. 

The OIC said it recognizes the importance of promoting and protecting the rights of people with disabilities to build inclusive and harmonious societies. 

The new Cairo Declaration of the OIC on Human Rights has duly emphasized the importance of the rights of people with disabilities in various contexts, a statement by the commission said.

The OIC is initiating the Plan of Action for Persons with Disabilities to help member states align their national policies and legislation with universal human rights standards, particularly the UNCRPD.

The commission also called upon all member states to: 

Design policies and targeted interventions to remove psychological, social, cultural and environmental barriers, which hinder the enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities

Follow multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach by integrating civil society, religious leaders, media and private sector to enhance public awareness and influence public policies aiming to improve public perception

Enhance opportunities for their employment and accessibility to education and healthcare services

Formulate national disability strategy/plan of action for improved investments in rehabilitation assistive technologies

Enhance capacities to gather data, statistics and qualitative information to better assess and address the situation of persons with disabilities


EU moots suspending asylum rights in Poland to end migrant crisis

EU moots suspending asylum rights in Poland to end migrant crisis
Updated 03 December 2021

EU moots suspending asylum rights in Poland to end migrant crisis

EU moots suspending asylum rights in Poland to end migrant crisis
  • The bloc has accused Belarus of manufacturing a crisis for political ends
  • 13 people have died on the Belarus border due to freezing conditions

LONDON: The EU is considering suspending some rights belonging to asylum seekers in countries bordering Belarus in an effort to end the ongoing migrant crisis.

Proposals put forward by the European Commission, the executive arm of the bloc, would allow for faster deportations and the detention of asylum seekers at the border for up to four months.

The plans are aimed at mitigating the political harm caused by large numbers of people attempting to enter Poland and other EU states from Belarus, in what Brussels describes as a crisis manufactured by Minsk.

The EU argues that Belarus has flown migrants in from the Middle East in order to put pressure on its northeastern border regions and manufacture political instability, with the onus of dealing with a large influx of migrants placed disproportionately on Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Belarus has denied those accusations, calling them absurd.

The three Belarus-bordering EU states have defended their approach of pushing migrants back without individually assessing their cases or granting them a realistic chance to claim asylum.

Rights groups say that 13 people have now died in the area due to the freezing conditions and that the practice violates EU rules and international humanitarian law.

Under the EU’s proposals, migrants would be permitted to claim asylum only at designated locations, such as border crossings.

National authorities would have a longer period of up to four weeks to register asylum applications and asylum seekers could be kept for up to 16 weeks at the border, losing a standing right to be held in more suitable centers inside the country.

The proposals are a further example of the EU tightening immigration rules since more than one million people arrived in 2015 — many of them fleeing the conflict in Syria — overwhelming the bloc and dividing member states over how to respond.

Immigration is among the most contentious intra-bloc issues for EU members, in part because regulation and geography mean that the burden of managing asylum applications and inward immigration falls disproportionately on Southern and Eastern countries — many of which are less wealthy than western states, such as France and Germany.

According to Lithuania’s interior ministry, around 10,000 migrants remain in Belarus, despite Minsk initiating removal flights for some.


Pope Francis urges ‘fraternity’ at mass in divided Cyprus

Pope Francis urges ‘fraternity’ at mass in divided Cyprus
Updated 03 December 2021

Pope Francis urges ‘fraternity’ at mass in divided Cyprus

Pope Francis urges ‘fraternity’ at mass in divided Cyprus
  • The 84-year-old pontiff was expected to offer 50 migrants now in Cyprus a chance for a new life in Italy
  • Francis on Thursday bemoaned “the terrible laceration” of Cyprus while also urging greater unity in Europe

NICOSIA: Pope Francis appealed for a “sense of fraternity” in an open-air mass in Cyprus on Friday, the second day of a visit to the divided Mediterranean island that has focused heavily on the plight of migrants.
As a gesture of solidarity to those fleeing poverty and conflict, the 84-year-old pontiff was expected to offer 50 migrants now in Cyprus a chance for a new life in Italy.
The pope delivered his open-air mass at Nicosia’s main football stadium to some 7,000 faithful, many of them workers from the Philippines and South Asia who make up a large proportion of the 25,000 Catholics in mainly Greek-Orthodox Cyprus.
“Faced with our own inner darkness and the challenges before us in the church and in society, we are called to renew our sense of fraternity,” Francis told them.
“If we remain divided, if each person thinks only of himself or herself, or his or her group, if we refuse to stick together, if we do not dialogue and walk together, we will never be completely healed of our blindness.”
Many in the crowd were waving the flags of nearby Lebanon, the Philippines and the pope’s native Argentina. A 130-member multicultural choir sang songs in Arabic, English and Greek.
“We are so lucky,” Jackylyn Fo Bulado, a 31-year-old domestic worker from the Philippines wearing a T-shirt with the pope’s image, said before the mass started.
“We are just waiting for a simple message of love and peace from the pope and that he will bless Cyprus and the world.”

The pope earlier visited the Holy Archbishopric of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus in Nicosia, seeking to improve historically difficult relations between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.
“Where our relations are concerned, history has opened broad furrows between us, but the Holy Spirit desires that with humility and respect we once more draw close to one another,” he said in an address to Orthodox clerics, including Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus.
Elena Chentsova, an Orthodox Christian originally from Ukraine, said she woke up early to see the pope.
“I’m Orthodox and I hope he will spread a message of dialogue between the different religions, to be all the more close,” the 42-year-old told AFP.
Francis — on his 35th international trip since becoming pope in 2013 — is the second Catholic pontiff to visit Cyprus after Benedict XVI went in 2010. He travels on to Greece on Saturday morning.
Cyprus said it had deployed 500 police to secure the pontiff’s visit, with sharp-shooters deployed on rooftops and a helicopter buzzing in the sky.
Police said a 43-year-old man was arrested after a security check at the stadium when a knife was found in his possession. A police spokesperson said it was believed the knife “had nothing to do with the pope” and was for personal use.
The pope will later hold an ecumenical prayer service with migrants from dozens of nations at Nicosia’s Church of the Holy Cross, located near the UN-patrolled “Green Line” that divides the country.
Cyprus has been split since 1974 when Turkish forces invaded and occupied the island’s northern third in response to a military coup sponsored by the Greek junta in power at the time.
Only Ankara recognizes the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and tensions simmer between the two sides.

The majority-Greek speaking south accuses the north of sending migrants across the Green Line and also says it now receives the highest number of first-time asylum seekers of any EU member country.
Francis on Thursday bemoaned “the terrible laceration” of Cyprus while also urging greater unity in Europe, instead of nationalism and “walls of fear,” as the continent faces an influx of refugees and migrants.
The island’s experience served as a reminder to Europe, he said, that “we need to work together to build a future worthy of humanity, to overcome divisions, to break down walls, to dream and work for unity.”
On Thursday evening, Francis visited President Nicos Anastasiades for talks focused on the island’s painful division.
“I think of the deep suffering of all those people unable to return to their homes and their places of worship,” said the pope, urging dialogue.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar accused the south of seeking to use the trip to score “political goals against Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”
It was a “source of sorrow for us that Pope Francis will visit Greek Cyprus only,” he said.
“There are two peoples in Cyprus. Not only Christian Greeks but also Muslim Turks live in Cyprus. This is one of the basic realities of Cyprus.”


Philippines court allows Nobel laureate Ressa to travel to Norway

Philippines court allows Nobel laureate Ressa to travel to Norway
Updated 03 December 2021

Philippines court allows Nobel laureate Ressa to travel to Norway

Philippines court allows Nobel laureate Ressa to travel to Norway
  • The prize is the first Nobel Peace Prize for journalists since the German Carl von Ossietzky won it in 1935
  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided this year’s award ceremony will be an in-person event taking place in Oslo City Hall

MANILA: Philippine journalist Maria Ressa will be allowed to travel so she can accept her Nobel Peace Prize in person after a court gave her permission to leave the Southeast Asian country to visit Norway later this month.
Ressa, who is subject to travel restrictions due to the legal cases she faces in the Philippines, shared the Peace Prize with Russian investigative journalist Dmitry Muratov, in an endorsement of free speech under fire worldwide.
The prize is the first Nobel Peace Prize for journalists since the German Carl von Ossietzky won it in 1935 for revealing his country’s secret post-war rearmament program.
In its ruling on Friday, the Philippine Court of Appeals granted Ressa’s request to travel to receive the award on Dec. 10, noting that “she is not a flight risk.”
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided this year’s award ceremony will be an in-person event taking place in Oslo City Hall.
Ressa’s news site, Rappler, has had its license suspended and she is embroiled in various legal cases. Supporters say she is being targeted due to her scrutiny of government policies, including a bloody war on drugs launched by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Free on bail as she appeals against a six-year prison sentence https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-media-idUSKBN23M03B handed down last year for a libel conviction, Ressa is facing five tax evasion charges and a corporate case with the regulator.
The Philippines saw its ranking in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index drop two notches to 138 out of 180 countries, and the Committee to Protect Journalists ranks the Philippines seventh in the world in its impunity index, which tracks deaths of media members whose killers go free.
The government denies hounding media and says any problems organizations face are legal, not political. It says it believes in free speech.
The United Nations on Monday had urged the Philippines to allow Ressa to travel https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/un-urges-philippines-let-nobel-laureate-ressa-travel-norway-2021-11-29 to Norway to accept the award.

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