Families cry foul over Myanmar’s crackdown

Families cry foul over Myanmar’s crackdown
At least 50 have died during the recent crackdown, with 1,790 arrested, charged or sentenced during the anti-coup movement, which began on Feb.1. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 March 2021

Families cry foul over Myanmar’s crackdown

Families cry foul over Myanmar’s crackdown
  • Activists accuse security forces of detaining family members of suspects

YANGON: Protests erupted in several cities across Myanmar on Sunday, with several more planned for today, after an official from the party of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi died overnight after “fainting” in police custody.

The family of Khin Maung Latt, a 58-year-old Muslim man from Yangon, however, rejected the claims saying that he was healthy “with no injuries at all” when police detained him on Saturday night.

“We were informed by the police on Sunday morning that he had died after fainting and that the body was being kept at a military hospital in Yangon,” one of Latt’s relatives, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told Arab News.

Soon, Family members, accompanied by a lawyer and community leader, went to the hospital and found Latt’s head “covered”
in blood.

“His body had multiple injuries, especially the head. He was healthy and had no injuries at all when soldiers took him” she said.

Latt, a member of the ruling National League for Democracy party (NLD), was among several detained by police who, reinforced by soldiers, moved throughout Yangon, firing shots and arresting dissidents.

Anti-military protests reached fever pitch after the deaths of dozens of protesters, with rally organizers saying “security forces were intent on breaking the back of the anti-coup movement with wanton violence and sheer brutality.”

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), at least 50 people have died during the security forces’ recent crackdown, with 1,790 arrested, charged or sentenced during the anti-coup movement, which began on Feb. 1.

While the number of detained persons remains unknown, it included Latt, other protest leaders, striking government staff and members of vigilante groups guarding neighborhoods.

AAPP spokesperson Tun Kyi, who helped Latt’s family with the funeral process, said that it was “possible” that Latt’s death was as a result of torture.

“Citing the injuries on his body, he was beaten and tortured,” Kyi told Arab News

“Troops took him alive and returned the dead body. This is the democracy promised by the military dictatorship,” he added.

Myanmar has been in a state of unrest for more than a month after military leaders seized power, overthrowing the civilian government led by Suu Kyi.

The coup followed a landslide win by  the  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.

Yangon, the country’s largest city, witnessed one of the deadliest incidents last week after security forces opened fire on the mostly peaceful protesters in the North Okalapa township’s outskirts, killing at least 38, according to a UN report.

Witnesses said that after increasing their crackdown on anti-coup protesters, security forces were escalating late-night raids in cities and towns across the country as well.

Tun Kyi said security forces were “acting lawlessly” during the crackdown and night raids, adding that in many cases, “when the targeted persons could not be found, they detained family members instead.

“They (security forces) took family members as hostages, looted and destroyed the private properties. They are acting like terrorists,” he added.

Latt served as a campaign leader for Sithu Maung, one of the NLD’s two Muslim lawmakers, who contested and won a seat in the lower house of Parliament representing Yangon’s Pabedan township.

His father, Peter, a former political prisoner and member of the NLD party in Yangon’s Hlaing township, was detained on Sunday night during a raid.

“They took my father hostage,” said Maung, who was issued an arrest warrant by the junta for his involvement in the Committee Representing Phyidaungsu Hluttaw which ousted lawmakers formed to represent the country’s Parliament after the Feb. 1 military coup.

He expressed grave concern over his father’s situation, especially after Khin Maung Latt’s death. 

“Khin Maung Latt was like my uncle. Now he has died of torture during overnight detention, so I am greatly concerned (that something) similar will happen to my father,” he told Arab News over the phone from a safe place on Monday.

“The junta is using all possible means to make people bow to them, but we will never let it happen. They have a gun; we have unity,” he said.

Maung added that the junta was responding to the opposition movement with “panic” because “they know they are going to lose anyway.

“After more than one month of the coup, it has not been recognized by most foreign countries while facing opposition from all sectors in the country. Its administrative mechanism has not functioned yet due to the non-recognizing and non-participation of the government staff and people,” he said.

Despite the deadliest crackdown by security forces, the anti-coup movement is gaining momentum across the country.

In Yangon, tensions were high after anti-coup protesters regrouped after being forcefully dispersed by stun grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets and, eventually, live ammunition.

Meanwhile, the Hlaing Thar Yar township of Yangon, where most of the areas garment factories are located, has yet to experience violence despite daily protests by thousands of people, mostly industrial workers.

“The forces mainly focus on cracking down on the protests in other townships, but we anticipate our turn would come soon,” Thar Zaw, an activist and a protest leader, told Arab News.

Striking workers, who had previously joined the demonstration in major protest sites across Yangon, including those stationed in Hlaing Thar Yar, said they were “prepared to defend themselves against security forces” with makeshift barricades on the streets.

“The protests here are even bigger now,” Thar Zaw told Arab News.

The country’s biggest trade unions have also called for an extended, nationwide strike until civilian rule is restored.

Moe Sandar Myint, founder of the Federation of General Worker Myanmar, said the garment sector was “already in danger since the coup.

“As long as the junta rules the country, there is no worker rights. So we, garment workers and industrial workers would continue the movement against the junta,” she told Arab News.

Myint has been in hiding since Feb. 6 after organizing and participating in an anti-coup rally in Yangon, the first mass protest since the coup took place.

“We are determined to fight till the end,” she said.


US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’

US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’
Updated 12 sec ago

US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’

US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’
LONDON: Members of the UN Security Council have unanimously voted to extend the international organization’s assistance mission in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s sweeping takeover of the country.
At a meeting on Friday, all five permanent members and the 10 rotating members of the Security Council, opted in favor of a resolution tabled by Norway and Estonia to allow the UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan’s mandate to run for another six months, until March 17.
The resolution also called for the formation of “an inclusive and representative government,” and emphasized the importance of “the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women” in the country moving forward.
It also reaffirmed the importance of combating terrorism in Taliban-run Afghanistan, adding that, “the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, to plan or finance terrorist acts, or to shelter and train terrorists, and that no Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any country.”
UNAMA is the UN’s main humanitarian facilitator in Afghanistan. It coordinates with other UN bodies such as the World Food Program to deliver aid in the country and employs more than 1,000 people, the majority of them Afghan nationals.
At a press conference prior to the Security Council meeting, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “We will hold the Taliban accountable not for what they say, or what they have written in these written commitments, but for their actions. The international community is unified in that position, across the board.”
On how America would deal with any Taliban actions it disagreed with given it no longer had troops in the country, the envoy added: “Our leverage remains. We are one of the largest contributors of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, and that gives us tremendous leverage.”
According to the UN, 18 million people in Afghanistan are now in need of humanitarian assistance — around half of the country’s population.
During Friday’s Security Council meeting, Thomas-Greenfield again reaffirmed her country’s commitments to human rights — particularly those of women and minorities — in Afghanistan.
She described the extension of UNAMA’s mission as an “important step” that demonstrated the Security Council’s commitment to the UN’s role in “supporting the Afghan people.”
Britain’s permanent representative to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said: “On counterterrorism, we hope the Taliban will live up to the commitments they made in Doha (the capital of Qatar).”
Part of the Taliban’s agreements with the US that facilitated the withdrawal of American forces from the country was that the Taliban would no longer allow their territory to be used as a safe haven for terrorists.
Afghanistan was invaded by the US and its NATO allies in 2001 after it was found that the Taliban government was harboring Al-Qaeda operatives, including Osama bin Laden, that had been central to the deadly attacks in America that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.
Echoing the US, Woodward said: “We will calibrate our approach to the Taliban according to the actions they take.”

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque
The Islamic Center will open its doors to all who want to learn about Islam and those who need any social help. (ANJ Photo)
Updated 17 September 2021

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque
  • An imam led a Friday prayer for about 80 Muslims
  • “This is a wonderful opportunity to open an Islamic Center in Nishi Kasai to serve a Muslim community,” said Imam volunteer Abdul Wahid

TOKYO: Muslims held the first Friday prayers at a new mosque and community center established in the Nishi Kasai district in Edogawa, one of the 23 wards of Tokyo.

On the second floor, an imam led a Friday prayer for about 80 Muslims, while loudspeakers conveyed the audio to the first floor of the building in an area set up for females worshippers.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to open an Islamic Center in Nishi Kasai to serve a Muslim community as well as our neighbors and local community and society at large,” the Imam volunteer Abdul Wahid told Arab News Japan. “We are offering our services, to serve Islam, to teach Islamic values and teachings in this society and community.”

Nishi Kasai is about 15 minutes by train from central Tokyo.

Abdul Wahid said the Islamic Center will open its doors to all who want to learn about Islam and those who need any social help.

Haroon Qureshi, Secretary-General of the Japan Islamic Trust, told Arab News Japan that the establishment is run by the Japan Islamic Trust, a religious organization running nine mosques in Japan.

“We are thankful for the cooperation of the local Muslims in Japan and many donors from more than 70 countries,” he said.

Abdullah Baba, president of Nishi Kasai Center, said they established their community seven years ago when there were 12-15 families, which increased to 80 families. The new center will provide important help for them.


Taliban order male students, teachers to school

Taliban order male students, teachers to school
Updated 17 September 2021

Taliban order male students, teachers to school

Taliban order male students, teachers to school
  • A statement published on Facebook Friday did not include girls of that age

ISTANBUL: The Taliban’s education ministry says all male students of grades 6 to 12 and male teachers should resume classes across Afghanistan, starting on Saturday.
The statement published on Facebook on Friday did not include girls of that age, and the lack of guidance highlighted ongoing concerns that the Taliban might impose restrictions on girls and women.
Since taking over power last month, the Taliban had allowed girls in grades one to six to resume classes. When they ruled Afghanistan previously in the 1990s, the Taliban had forbidden girls and women from attending school and work.
In some of the provinces, women still are not allowed to continue their work, with exceptions for women who have worked in health departments, hospitals and education.

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Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort
Updated 17 September 2021

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort
  • An independent commission last year concluded that authorities in the Tyrol region acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts

VIENNA: A civil trial opened Friday in Austria over the government’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak at an Alpine ski resort during the early stages of the pandemic that relatives say resulted in unnecessary infections and deaths.
Sieglinde and Ullrich Schopf, the widow and son of a 72-year-old Austrian man who died of COVID-19 after becoming infected in Ischgl, are seeking about 100,000 euros ($117,000) compensation from the government. Their is seen as a test case for a larger class action suit involving hundreds of people who fell ill with COVID-19 following a trip to the Paznaun valley in February and March 2020.
The family is supported by Austria’s Consumer Protection Association, which said it is open to a negotiated settlement.
The outbreak in Ischgl, a popular resort in western Austria, is considered one of Europe’s earliest “super-spreader” events of the pandemic.
“Stopping people from leaving and arriving in the Paznaun valley or at least issuing a travel warning — the authorities failed to do that,” said Alexander Klauser, a lawyer representing the Schopf family. “Thousands of people left the Paznaun valley unhindered, thousands of people arrived without a clue that they were in danger.”
An independent commission last year concluded that authorities in the Tyrol region acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts in the valley after it became clear they were dealing with one of Europe’s first coronavirus outbreaks in March. But the panel didn’t find evidence that political or business pressure played a role in the decisions.
Klauser, the lawyer, said that even after authorities issued a directive to close apres-ski bars it wasn’t enforced strongly enough.
“Open air mass gatherings which were forbidden according to the directive continued,” he said. “The police just watched on without doing anything.”


Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis
Updated 17 September 2021

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu on Friday condemned Houthi attacks earlier this month on Saudi Arabia.

“On September 4, a missile attack in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia was launched and repeated transporter attacks by Houthis against Saudi Arabia have been carried out. We strongly condemn such actions,” Motegi told Arab News Japan at a press conference.

Motegi stressed that the Japanese government was attempting to help in negotiations in order for a truce to be reached between the Houthis and various other parties.

“We very much support the activity by Ambassador Grandberg, Special Envoy for Yemen of the United Nations, and various other initiatives to end the disputes in Yemen and in the international community,” Motegi said.

The Japanese minister said during his recent visit to the Middle East, he more firmly supported a peaceful truce in Yemen.

Motegi said Japan will continue to collaborate with the relevant countries within and outside of the Middle East to achieve peace and security in Yemen.

“Ninety percent of the crude oil arriving in Japan comes from the Middle East and from such perspective peace and stability in the region is of crucial importance for Japan.”