Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings

Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings
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Scenes of mass protest near Yangon’s Sule pagoda on Monday. (AN Photo)
Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings
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Scenes of mass protest near Yangon’s Sule pagoda on Monday. (AN Photo)
Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings
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Scenes of mass protest near Yangon’s Sule pagoda on Monday. (AN Photo)
Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings
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Scenes of mass protest near Yangon’s Sule pagoda on Monday. (AN Photo)
Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings
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Scenes of mass protest near Yangon’s Sule pagoda on Monday. (AN Photo)
Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings
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Scenes of mass protest near Yangon’s Sule pagoda on Monday. (AN Photo)
Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings
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Scenes of mass protest near Yangon’s Sule pagoda on Monday. (AN Photo)
Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings
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Scenes of mass protest near Yangon’s Sule pagoda on Monday. (AN Photo)
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Updated 22 February 2021

Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings

Myanmar anti-coup protests intensify in defiance of military junta warnings
  • Citizens turned out in force to voice their anger despite the deaths of three protesters during a crackdown by troops in recent days
  • Myanmar has been in a state of unrest since Feb. 1, when military leaders seized power after overthrowing the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi

YANGON: Tens of thousands of protesters in Myanmar on Monday again took to the streets to demonstrate against the military coup in defiance of warnings from the ruling junta.

In what rally organizers described as one of the biggest public demonstrations in the country’s history, citizens turned out in force to voice their anger despite the deaths of three protesters during a crackdown by troops in recent days.

As military leaders ordered the mobilization of soldiers to quell the latest wave of protests, Wai Yan Phyo Moe, vice chair of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) and a member of the general strike committee, told Arab News: “Today will be a historic moment, and the demonstration will be the largest ever in our history.”

State-run TV and radio channels repeatedly ran appeals from the military junta urging people not to join the so-called Two Fives Nationwide General Strike (in reference to the five number twos in the date 22/02/2021), warning that “while peaceful demonstrations are lawful, undermining stability is not, and the authorities may take action.”

However, demonstrators said the protests would continue in a show of solidarity for those killed during rallies in Mandalay and the capital Nay Pyi Taw.

“The military coup destroyed our dreams and future overnight. We have nothing to lose anymore. We are therefore determined to take it back with all possible ways,” said protest leader Wai Yan.

Two men were killed over the weekend and more than 20 injured after troops fired shots to disperse mass gatherings in the city of Mandalay. The incidents followed the death of a 20-year-old student who was shot in the head while taking part in anti-coup protests in Nay Pyi Taw.

The military on Monday ordered a nationwide internet blackout to be extended for three hours in Yangon, where police erected barricades to block streets leading to UN offices, and embassies. Armored vehicles, water cannons, and extra troops were also deployed in the city overnight.

Unlike Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon has not yet witnessed any major violence, despite large daily protests.

“All of these acts are to make people scared and confused because they don’t want the two fives movement to happen,” Wai Yan added.

Myanmar has been in a state of unrest since Feb. 1, when military leaders seized power after overthrowing the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup followed a landslide win by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in the November general election. But the army rejected the results, citing poll irregularities and fraud.

During the takeover, the military detained key government leaders — including Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and several prominent activists — and declared a state of emergency, along with an announcement that the country would be under military rule for at least a year.

Myanmar has witnessed widespread protests ever since, with thousands ignoring a ban on public gatherings.

“The junta did not learn anything from the past. They thought we are cowards who would bow before the dictator’s sword easily. We are brave and just take non-violence ways of the revolution,” Wai Yan said, referring to the pro-democracy movement of 1988.

Protesters are calling for all civilian leaders to be freed, including Suu Kyi, recognition of the 2020 poll results, and for the military to withdraw from politics.

As protests gathered pace many shops and businesses, including the country’s largest retailer City Mart, remained shut.

Kyin Mya, 56, a Myanmar Chinese woman who had never participated in anti-government protests before, said: “I always told my children not to get involved in politics, but this time it is different.”

Mya, who owns a shop in Yangon’s Lanmandaw township, lost her brother in the 1988 pro-democracy movement, which ended with a brutal crackdown and military coup. She told Arab News: “I can’t hold them anymore. They have tasted freedom over the past few years and are not giving it up easily.

“So, I am also taking to the streets today. I am afraid of being shot or beaten by soldiers, but I told myself we would be together even if we are on the way to taking the bullets.”

Protesters in Yangon made concerted attempts to avoid any confrontations with security forces and unlike on previous days, did not wear T-shirts and headbands bearing the NLD’s symbol, saying their “fight was for democratic values, and not for the NLD.”

In an announcement via state media on Sunday, the military junta said: “NLD members and its supporters have incited protesters to make the hostile behaviors and clashes with the security force members, leading toward a confrontation path.”

But Win Pa Pa, a 31-year-old doctor at a private hospital in Yangon, said: “It is ridiculous. The protests are against dictatorship and across the country from north to south and east to west. All members of religions and ethnicities included. If all protesters are NLD supporters, NLD would have won the 2020 election 100 percent.”

Moe Sandar Myint, founder of the Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM), told Arab News that young but militant labor advocates played a “big role” in the anti-coup protests.

“Tens of thousands of workers are actively involved in the daily protests. We have faced suppression under the civilian governments too but realize that the military rule would make us silent if they rule the country for a longer period,” she said, referring to the junta’s promise to hold an election after one year under a state of emergency.

“Most industrial workers live from hand to mouth. Under the civilian government rule, we could make life better gradually, but there is no way under this dictatorship. It is better to die than live under a dictatorship,” she added.

Accusing the junta of “violating community standards prohibiting the incitement of violence and coordinating harm,” Facebook on Sunday took down the military’s main social media page from its platform.


German court convicts ex-Daesh member in Yazidi girl’s death

German court convicts ex-Daesh member in Yazidi girl’s death
Updated 18 sec ago

German court convicts ex-Daesh member in Yazidi girl’s death

German court convicts ex-Daesh member in Yazidi girl’s death
  • The convicted man, an Iraqi citizen, was ordered to pay the girl's family $57,000
  • It was the first genocide conviction worldwide over a person’s role in the systematic persecution by Daesh of the Yazidis

BERLIN: A former member of the Daesh group was convicted by a German court on Tuesday of genocide and committing a war crime over the death of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl he had purchased as a slave and then chained up in the hot sun to die.
The Frankfurt regional court sentenced Taha Al-J., an Iraqi citizen whose full last name wasn’t released because of privacy rules, to life imprisonment and ordered him to pay the girl’s mother 50,000 euros ($57,000).
German news agency dpa quoted the presiding judge, Christoph Koller, saying it was the first genocide conviction worldwide over a person’s role in the systematic persecution by Daesh of the Yazidi religious minority.
The defendant’s lawyers had denied the allegations made against their client.
His German wife was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison over the girl’s death.
The girl’s mother, who survived captivity, testified at both trials and took part as a co-plaintiff.
“This is the moment Yazidis have been waiting for,” said lawyer Amal Clooney, who acted as a counsel for the mother. “To finally hear a judge, after seven years, declare that what they suffered was genocide. To watch a man face justice for killing a Yazidi girl — because she was Yazidi.”
Zemfira Dlovani, a lawyer and member of Germany’s Central Council of Yazidis, also welcomed the verdict.
“We can only hope that it will serve as a milestone for further cases to follow,” she told The Associated Press, noting that thousands of Yazidi women were enslaved and mistreated by the Daesh group. “This should be the beginning, not the end.”
The United Nations has called the Daesh assault on the Yazidis’ ancestral homeland in northern Iraq in 2014 a genocide, saying the Yazidis’ 400,000-strong community “had all been displaced, captured or killed.” Of the thousands captured by IS, boys were forced to fight for the extremists, men were executed if they didn’t convert to Islam — and often executed in any case — and women and girls were sold into slavery.
According to German prosecutors, Al-J. bought a Yazidi woman and her 5-year-old daughter Reda as slaves at an Daesh base in Syria in 2015. The two had been taken as prisoners by the militants from the northern Iraqi town of Kocho at the beginning of August 2014 and had been “sold and resold several times as slaves” by the group already.
The defendant took the woman and her daughter to his household in the Iraqi city of Fallujah and forced them to “keep house and to live according to strict Islamic rules,” while giving them insufficient food and beating them regularly to punish them, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors allege that toward the end of 2015, Al-J. chained the girl to the bars of a window in the open sun on a day where it reached 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) and she died from the punishment. The punishment was allegedly carried out because the 5-year-old had wet the bed.
Al-J. was arrested in Greece and extradited to Germany two years ago.
German authorities took on the case under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows the country to try particularly serious crimes even if they were committed elsewhere and there is no direct link to Germany.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad, who is herself a survivor of atrocities committed by Daesh, said the verdict was “a win for survivors of genocide, survivors of sexual violence, and the entire Yazidi community.”
“Germany is not only is raising awareness about the need for justice, but is acting on it,” she said in a statement. “Their use of universal jurisdiction in this case can and should be replicated by governments around the world.”


4 found dead at home in Indiana after report of shots fired

4 found dead at home in Indiana after report of shots fired
Updated 30 November 2021

4 found dead at home in Indiana after report of shots fired

4 found dead at home in Indiana after report of shots fired
  • Law enforcement responded about 9 p.m. Monday and medics confirmed that the four were dead inside the home in Allen County
  • The investigation was in the preliminary stages

FORT WAYNE, Indiana: The bodies of four people were found at a home in northeastern Indiana following a report of shots being fired, authorities said.
Law enforcement responded about 9 p.m. Monday and medics confirmed that the four were dead inside the home in Allen County, near Fort Wayne, sheriff’s Cpl. Adam Griffith said at the scene.
One person described as a witness was uninjured, Griffith said, and investigators interviewed that person.
The investigation was in the preliminary stages Monday night, Griffith said, but authorities didn’t believe there was any current danger to the public. Circumstances of the deaths weren’t immediately given.
Additional information was expected to be released Tuesday.


Pentagon orders new probe into Syria airstrike investigated by NYT

Pentagon orders new probe into Syria airstrike investigated by NYT
Updated 30 November 2021

Pentagon orders new probe into Syria airstrike investigated by NYT

Pentagon orders new probe into Syria airstrike investigated by NYT
  • Dozens of civilians were killed in successive airstrikes
  • A US legal officer ‘flagged the strike as a possible war crime’ but the leadership are alleged to have taken no action

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon launched a fresh probe Monday into a 2019 airstrike that killed civilians in Syria, two weeks after a New York Times investigation claimed the US military concealed dozens of non-combatants’ deaths.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin instructed Army General Michael Garrett to “review the reports of the investigation already conducted into that incident” and “conduct further inquiry into the facts and circumstances related to it,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
Garrett’s three-month review will assess “civilian casualties that resulted from the incident, compliance with the law of war, record keeping and reporting procedures,” Kirby added.
It will also probe whether measures taken after the earlier investigation were effectively implemented, if “accountability measures” should be taken and if “procedures or processes should be altered.”
According to a Times investigation published mid-November, a US special force operating in Syria — sometimes in complete secrecy — bombed a group of civilians three times on March 18, 2019, near the Islamic State (IS) bastion of Baghouz, killing 70 people, mainly women and children.
The Times report says a US legal officer “flagged the strike as a possible war crime” but that “at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike.”
The Times found the strike “was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents of the war against the Islamic State,” but was never publicly acknowledged by the US military.
“The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. And top leaders were not notified,” the report said, adding findings of a Pentagon probe were “stalled and stripped of any mention of the strike.”
A statement released by the Pentagon after the report said the initial investigation into the incident by the US Army Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, found the strikes were “self-defense,” “proportional” and that “appropriate steps were taken to exclude the presence of civilians.”
A US-led coalition and Kurdish-led allies announced the defeat of the IS proto-state, known as the “caliphate,” at the end of March 2019 after overcoming the last jihadist holdout of Baghouz.


India advises states to step up COVID-19 testing; Mumbai delays school reopening

India advises states to step up COVID-19 testing; Mumbai delays school reopening
Updated 30 November 2021

India advises states to step up COVID-19 testing; Mumbai delays school reopening

India advises states to step up COVID-19 testing; Mumbai delays school reopening
  • State governments warned last week that a recent fall in testing could undermine India’s efforts to contain the pandemic

BENGALURU: India’s health ministry said on Tuesday states should ramp up COVID-19 testing as the world battles the new coronavirus variant omicron, while some cities delayed the reopening of schools as a precautionary measure.
The ministry also said the omicron variant “doesn’t escape RT-PCR and RAT (testing),” appeasing some concerns among domestic health workers that changes in the spike protein of the virus could lead to conventional tests failing to detect the variant.
It comes as the ministry warned state governments last week that a recent fall in testing could undermine India’s efforts to contain the pandemic.
While India has not reported any omicron cases yet, authorities are studying the sample of a man who tested positive for COVID-19 after recently returning from South Africa to see if he is infected with the omicron or another variant.
Also on Tuesday, Mumbai’s municipal corporation said it was delaying reopening schools for younger children to Dec. 15 instead of Wednesday as a precautionary measure given the global situation involving omicron. In-person classes for senior students began about two months ago.
The city of Pune, which is also located in the western state of Maharashtra, has also postponed the reopening of schools, local media reported.
After battling a record jump in infections and deaths in April and May, cases have come down substantially in India.
Its COVID-19 cases rose by 6,990 on Tuesday — the smallest increase in 551 days — to 34.59 million. Only the United States has reported more total infections.
Deaths rose by 190, taking the total to 468,980, health ministry data showed.


Greece to make vaccinations for persons over 60 mandatory, PM says

Greece to make vaccinations for persons over 60 mandatory, PM says
Updated 30 November 2021

Greece to make vaccinations for persons over 60 mandatory, PM says

Greece to make vaccinations for persons over 60 mandatory, PM says
  • About 63 percent of the population of about 11 million is fully vaccinated
  • Greece has recorded a spike in infections this month, with daily cases hitting record highs

ATHENS: Greece said on Tuesday it would make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for people aged 60 and over in a move to quell a resurgent virus that is burdening a frail health care system.
Authorities said those who failed to comply from Jan. 16 would face a recurring monthly fine of 100 euros.
Tuesday’s announcement marks an EU-wide first in targeting a specific age group. Other countries make vaccines mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups of workers.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he struggled with the decision but it was necessary to protect more than half a million elderly Greeks who had failed to get the jab.
“Its the price to pay for health,” he said.
About 63 percent of Greece’s 11 million population is fully vaccinated. While vaccine appointments have picked up in recent weeks, health ministry data shows there are 520,000 people over the age of 60 who have failed to get a jab.
“We are focusing our efforts on protection of our fellow citizens and for this reason their vaccination will be mandatory from now on,” Mitsotakis told a cabinet meeting.
Syriza, Greece’s main opposition party, faulted the measures as being punitive and financially excessive.
“This hasn’t happened anywhere,” it said.
Mitsotakis did not say how authorities would enforce the rule. A 100 euro fine is a hefty chunk of the average monthly 730 euro pension.
“(The decision) tortured me, but I feel a heavy responsibility in standing next to those most vulnerable, even if it might fleetingly displease them,” he said.
Greece this month barred unvaccinated people from indoor spaces including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms as daily COVID-19 cases hit record highs.
It has recorded 931,183 infections and 18,067 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.