Hundreds of thousands protest in Myanmar as army faces crippling mass strike

Hundreds of thousands protest in Myanmar as army faces crippling mass strike
An armoured vehicle drives next to the Sule Pagoda, following days of mass protests against the military coup, in Yangon on February 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 14 February 2021

Hundreds of thousands protest in Myanmar as army faces crippling mass strike

Hundreds of thousands protest in Myanmar as army faces crippling mass strike
  • Armoured vehicles were seen in the commercial capital of Yangon for the first time since the Feb. 1 coup
  • A civil disobedience movement has sprung up to protest against the coup that deposed the civilian government

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Myanmar for a ninth day of anti-coup protests on Sunday, as the new army rulers grappled to contain a strike by government workers that could cripple their ability to run the country.
As evening fell, armoured vehicles were seen in the commercial capital of Yangon for the first time since the Feb. 1 coup. The U.S embassy in the country urged American citizens to "shelter in place", citing reports of the military movements.
Trains in parts of the country stopped running after staff refused to go to work, local media reported, while the military deployed soldiers to power plants where they were confronted by angry crowds.
A civil disobedience movement has sprung up to protest against the coup that deposed the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. It started with doctors, but now affects a swathe of government departments.
The junta ordered civil servants to go back to work, threatening action. The army has been carrying out nightly mass arrests and on Saturday gave itself sweeping powers to detain people and search private property.
But hundreds of railway workers joined demonstrations in Yangon on Sunday, even as police went to their housing compound on the outskirts of the city to order them back to work. The police were forced to leave after angry crowds gathered, according to a live broadcast by Myanmar Now.
Soldiers were deployed to power plants in the northern Kachin state, leading to a confrontation with protesters who said they believed they intended to cut off the electricity to carry out nightly arrests.
"The military tried to control the electricity power sources since yesterday," said Awng Kham, a local politician. "They might be able to control the power during the night while they are doing their business at night."
As night fell, soldiers fired water cannon to disperse protesters outside one plant in the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina, a Facebook live broadcast, filmed by a local media outlet and seen by Reuters, showed. One soldier shouted "arrest them all" before the broadcast ended.
Several power departments in Yangon said in Facebook posts they would refuse to cut the power and expressed support for the protesters. "Our duty is to give electricity, not to cut," said one staffer, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, adding that some colleagues were participating in the strike.
The government and army could not be reached for comment.
Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the work of many government departments had effectively ground to a halt.
"This has the potential to also affect vital functions – the military can replace engineers and doctors, but not power grid controllers and central bankers," he said.

PROTESTS ACROSS NATION
Hundreds of thousands of people protested across the nation after a fearful night as residents formed patrols and the army rolled back laws protecting freedoms.
Engineering students marched through downtown Yangon, the biggest city, wearing white and carrying placards demanding the release of ousted leader Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup and charged with importing walkie talkies.
A fleet of highway buses rolled slowly through the city with horns blaring, part of the biggest street protests in more than a decade.
A convoy of motorbikes and cars drove through the capital Naypyitaw. In the southeastern coastal town of Dawei, a band played drums as crowds marched under the hot sun. In Waimaw, in Kachin state, crowds carried flags and sang revolutionary songs.
Many of the protesters nationwide held up images of Suu Kyi.
Her detention is due to expire on Monday. Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, could not be reached for comment on what was set to happen.
More than 384 people have been detained since the coup, the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said, in a wave of mostly nightly arrests.
"While the international community is condemning the coup, Min Aung Hlaing is using every tool he has to instigate fears and instabilities," activist Wai Hnin Pwint Thon from the UK-based rights group Burma Campaign UK said on Twitter, referring to the military ruler.

'STOP KIDNAPPING PEOPLE'
Residents banded together late on Saturday to patrol streets in Yangon and the country's second-largest city Mandalay, fearing arrest raids as well as common crime.
Worries about crime rose after the junta announced on Friday it would free 23,000 prisoners, saying the move was consistent with “establishing a new democratic state with peace, development and discipline”.
Tin Myint, a Yangon resident, was among the crowds who detained a group of four people suspected of carrying out an attack in the neighbourhood.
"We think the military intends to cause violence with these criminals by infiltrating them into peaceful protests," he said.
He cited pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988, when the military was widely accused of releasing criminals into the population to stage attacks, later citing the unrest as a justification for extending their own power.
Also late on Saturday, the army reinstated a law requiring people to report overnight visitors to their homes, allowed security forces to detain suspects and search private property without court approval, and ordered the arrest of well-known backers of mass protests.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in a November election that the army said was tainted with fraud - an accusation dismissed by the electoral commission.


Authorities shut down six ‘illegal’ Iranian schools in southwest Pakistan

Authorities shut down six ‘illegal’ Iranian schools in southwest Pakistan
Photo/Quetta Assistant Commissioner
Updated 57 min 41 sec ago

Authorities shut down six ‘illegal’ Iranian schools in southwest Pakistan

Authorities shut down six ‘illegal’ Iranian schools in southwest Pakistan
  • Schools were teaching foreign curriculum in violation of Pakistani law, officials say
  • Management and faculty of the schools consisted of Iranian nationals

KARACHI: Pakistani authorities have closed six Iranian schools operating illegally in southwestern Balochistan province, officials said on Saturday.
All six schools shut on Friday were run by Iranian nationals in Quetta, the capital of the province bordering Iran.
“We have sealed six schools, which were being illegally run by Iranian nationals and where a foreign syllabus was being taught in violation of the country law,” Quetta Assistant Commissioner Muhammad Zuhaib-ul-Haq told Arab News.
Shabbir Ahmed, monitoring and evaluation director of the provincial government’s Balochistan Education Foundation, said that four more schools are being investigated for teaching a foreign curriculum.
“It’s likely that the remaining four schools will also be sealed since they don’t fulfil requirements,” Ahmed said. “Foreign-funded schools with foreign faculty and foreign syllabus are unacceptable.”
Both the management and faculty of the schools consisted of Iranian nationals, he added.
It remains unclear when the schools were established. All the schools had 1992 “no objection” certificates on display, Ahmed said, but this was not sufficient for them to operate as they had failed to register with the provincial home and education departments.
The schools attracted the attention of local authorities five months ago and were asked to register properly.
“A form was handed to them to get themselves registered, but registration was declined after they failed to fulfil requirements,” Ahmed said.
“If you are teaching in Pakistan, which is a sovereign state, you have to teach Pakistani syllabus,” he added. “It is not possible to teach a foreign curriculum in a sovereign state.”

 

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Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead

Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead
Updated 12 June 2021

Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead

Afghan official: Bombs hit 2 minivans in Kabul, 7 dead
  • The first explosion killed six people and wounded two and the second explosion killed one and wounded four
  • The area where the explosions happened is largely populated by the minority Hazara ethnic group

KABUL: Separate bombs hit two minivans in a mostly Shiite neighborhood in the Afghan capital Saturday, killing at least seven people and wounding six others, the Interior Ministry said.
The attacks targeted minivans on the same road about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) apart in a neighborhood in western Kabul, Interior Ministry deputy spokesman Ahmad Zia Zia, said.
It wasn’t immediately clear what type of bombs were used and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. Daesh has carried out similar bombings in the area, including four attacks on four minivans earlier this month that killed at least 18 people.
The first explosion killed six people and wounded two and the second explosion in front of Muhammad Ali Jinnah hospital, where a majority of COVID-19 patients are admitted, killed one and wounded four.
The area where the explosions happened is largely populated by the minority Hazara ethnic group who are mostly Shiite Muslims. Shiites are a minority in mostly Sunni Afghanistan, and the local Daesh affiliate has declared war against them.
Hundreds of Afghans are killed or injured every month in violence connected to the country’s constant war. But Hazaras, who make up around 9 percent of the population of 36 million people, stand alone in being intentionally targeted because of their ethnicity and their religion.
Violence and chaos continue to escalate in Afghanistan as the US and NATO continue their withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 American soldiers and 7,000 allied forces. The last of the troops will be gone by Sept. 11 at the latest.


After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade
Updated 12 June 2021

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade

After charming leaders, Queen Elizabeth sits back for parade
  • On Friday, she was the star turn at a reception with the G-7 leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project
  • She drew laughter from her guests as she chided them during a group photo session: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?”

LONDON: Fresh from charming leaders at the Group of Seven summit, Queen Elizabeth II was back at her residence at Windsor Castle on Saturday to view a military parade to mark her official birthday.
The 95-year-old monarch sat on a dais to watch the ceremony that despite ongoing social distancing restrictions did not disappoint on the pomp and pageantry front. If she was tired after meeting G-7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, on Friday evening, it didn’t show.
The ceremony is a gift from the Household Division of army regiments, which has a close affinity with the monarch. It featured soldiers who have played an integral role in the COVID-19 response, as well as those who have been serving on military operations. She was seen beaming from ear to ear as the nine planes of the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows flew past in formation and let loose their red, white and blue smoke.
The traditional Trooping the Color ceremony is normally staged in London and features hundreds of servicemen and women and thousands of spectators. However, for the second year running, that was not possible and it was a slimmed-down affair in the grounds of Windsor Castle, which is around 27 miles (44 kilometers) west of the capital.


Dubbed a mini Trooping the Color, it featured soldiers in ceremonial scarlet coats and bearskin hats. The servicemen and women on parade numbered almost 275, with 70 horses, compared with the 85 soldiers who took part in the ceremony last summer. A small handful of seated guests lined part of the quadrangle — a change from last year when only the military were present.
The ceremony originated from traditional preparations for battle. The colors — or flags — were “trooped,” or carried down the lines of soldiers, so they could be seen and recognized in battle.
Lt. Col. Guy Stone, who planned the queen’s official birthday celebrations in Windsor Castle’s quadrangle, said he wanted to create a “memorable and uplifting day” for the monarch.
The ceremony took place a couple of months after the death of her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip, whose funeral also took place at Windsor Castle.
Though she has been mourning the loss of her husband of 73 years, the queen has carried on performing her duties, including delivering a government-scripted speech to mark the new session of parliament.
On Friday, she was the star turn at a reception with the G-7 leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project, a futuristic botanical garden housed inside domes that features the world’s largest indoor rainforest.
She drew laughter from her guests as she chided them during a group photo session: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?”
Though the queen’s actual birthday is on April 26, she celebrates another one in June when the British weather — it is hoped — is more conducive to outdoor celebrations. It’s a royal tradition that goes back to 1748 and the reign of King George II, whose actual birthday was in November.
One of the major parts of the queen’s official birthday is her award of honors to those deemed to have made a positive contribution to society.
This year’s honors list has celebrated those at the forefront of the UK’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines over the past few months, which has been credited with turning around the country’s pandemic response.
Sarah Gilbert, the professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford who was instrumental in the development of the vaccine being manufactured by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and Kate Bingham, the former head of the UK Vaccines Taskforce credited for the country’s successful procurement program, have both been recognized with damehoods.
Though the UK has seen Europe’s highest virus-related death toll, with nearly 128,000 people having lost their lives, its vaccination program has been deemed one of the world’s speediest and most coherent rollouts.


At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas
Updated 12 June 2021

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

AUSTIN, TEXAS: Officials in Texas say at least nine people have been injured following a shooting Saturday morning in downtown Austin.
Police said in a tweet that multiple victims had injuries. The Austin-Travis County EMS said in a series of tweets that at least 12 patients had received treatment or been transported to local hospitals.
It was unknown how many of the injuries may have been gunshot wounds.
It was unclear what sparked the shooting. Police have not announced any suspects or arrests.


France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
Updated 12 June 2021

France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

France’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
  • Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured

CARBIS BAY, England: French President Emmanuel Macron offered on Saturday to reset relations with Britain as long as Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood by the Brexit divorce deal he signed with the European Union.
Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured, with Macron becoming the most vocal critic of London’s refusal to honor the terms of part of its Brexit deal.
At a meeting at the Group of Seven world’s most advanced economies in southwestern England, Macron told Johnson the two countries had common interests, but that ties could only improve if Johnson kept his word on Brexit.
“The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans,” the source said, adding that Macron spoke in English to Johnson.
Johnson will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Saturday, where she could also raise the row over part of the EU divorce deal, called the Northern Ireland protocol.
The British leader, who is hosting the G7 meeting, wants the summit to focus on global issues, but has stood his ground on trade with Northern Ireland, calling on the EU to be more flexible in its approach to easing trade to the province from Britain.