4 killed as Myanmar forces continue crackdown on protesters

4 killed as Myanmar forces continue crackdown on protesters
Protesters shout slogan as they protest against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, Friday, March 12, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 13 March 2021

4 killed as Myanmar forces continue crackdown on protesters

4 killed as Myanmar forces continue crackdown on protesters
  • Three deaths were reported in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, and one in Pyay, a town in south-central Myanmar
  • The nighttime protests may reflect a more aggressive approach to self-defense that has been advocated by some protesters

MANDALAY, Myanmar: Security forces in Myanmar on Saturday again met protests against last month’s military takeover with lethal force, killing at least four people by shooting live ammunition at demonstrators.
Three deaths were reported in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, and one in Pyay, a town in south-central Myanmar. There were multiple reports on social media of the deaths, along with photos of dead and wounded people in both locations.
The independent UN human rights expert for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said Thursday that “credible reports” indicated security forces in the Southeast Asian nation had so far killed at least 70 people, and cited growing evidence of crimes against humanity since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Reports on social media also said three people were shot dead Friday night in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, where residents for the past week have been defying an 8 p.m. curfew to come out on the streets.
Two deaths by gunfire were reported in Yangon’s Thaketa township, where a protest being held outside a police station was dispersed. A crowd had gathered there to demand the release of three young men who were seized from their home earlier Friday night. Photos said to be of the bodies of two dead protesters were posted online. The other reported fatality Friday night was of a 19-year-old man shot in Hlaing township.
The nighttime protests may reflect a more aggressive approach to self-defense that has been advocated by some protesters. Police had been aggressively patrolling residential neighborhoods at night, firing into the air and setting off stun grenades in an effort at intimidation. They have also been carrying out targeted raids, taking people from their homes with minimal resistance. In at least two known cases, the detainees died in custody within hours of being taken away.
Another possible indication of heightened resistance emerged Saturday with photos posted online of a railway bridge said to have been damaged by an explosive charge.
The bridge was described in multiple accounts as being on the rail line from Mandalay to Myitkyina, the capital of the northern state of Kachin. The photos show damage to part of a concrete support.
No one took responsibility for the action, but it could serve a two-fold purpose.
It could be seen as support for the nationwide strike of state railway workers, who are part of the civil disobedience movement against the coup.
At the same time, it could be aimed as disrupting the ability of the junta to reinforce its troops in Kachin, a state whose residents have long been at odds with the central government. The Kachin ethnic minority fields its own well-trained and equipped guerrilla force, and there has been outrage in Myitkyina at security forces’ killing of anti-coup protesters there.
The prospect of sabotage has been openly discussed by some protesters, who warn that they could blow up a pipeline supplying natural gas to China. They see China as being the junta’s main supporter, even though Beijing has been mildly critical of the coup in its public comments.
In Washington on Friday, the Biden administration announced it is offering temporary legal residency to people from Myanmar, citing the military’s takeover and ongoing deadly force against civilians.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the designation of temporary protected status for people from Myanmar would last for 18 months. The offer of temporary legal residency applies to people already in the United States. Mayorkas said in a statement that worsening conditions in Myanmar would make it difficult for those people to safely return home.
The Feb. 1 coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party led a return to civilian rule with a landslide election victory in 2015, and an even greater margin of votes last year. It would have been installed for a second five-year term last month, but instead Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and other members of the government were placed in military detention.


Two Taliban among three killed in Jalalabad attack

Two Taliban among three killed in Jalalabad attack
Updated 6 sec ago

Two Taliban among three killed in Jalalabad attack

Two Taliban among three killed in Jalalabad attack
  • The attack in Jalalabad city is the latest on Taliban targets in Nangarhar province
  • Islamic State-Khorasan claimed responsibility for several weekend attacks in Jalalabad
JALALABAD: Two Taliban fighters and a civilian were killed Wednesday by gunmen who attacked a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, security sources and witnesses said.
The attack in Jalalabad city is the latest on Taliban targets in Nangarhar province, which for years was the main operating base of the Daesh group’s Afghanistan chapter.
A security source and witnesses said unidentified gunmen in a rickshaw attacked a checkpoint in Ghawchak district of Jalalabad and killed two Taliban guards and a civilian bystander.
A Taliban official confirmed the attack, but said the dead were all civilians.
In another incident, local residents said that two Taliban fighters were injured while trying to defuse an improvised explosive device in Jalalabad.
Further details were not immediately available.
Islamic State-Khorasan, the local branch of the militant group, claimed responsibility for several weekend attacks in Jalalabad that killed at least two people.
They were the first deadly blasts since the last US forces withdrew from Afghanistan on August 30.
IS-K also claimed responsibility for a bloody attack that killed more than 100 people at Kabul airport at the end of August.
Although both Daesh and the Taliban are hard-line Sunni Islamist militant groups, they differ on the issues of religion and strategy, which has led to bloody fighting between the two.

Philippines’ Duterte vows accountability for anyone who went ‘beyond bounds’ in drug war

Philippines’ Duterte vows accountability for anyone who went ‘beyond bounds’ in drug war
Updated 8 min 22 sec ago

Philippines’ Duterte vows accountability for anyone who went ‘beyond bounds’ in drug war

Philippines’ Duterte vows accountability for anyone who went ‘beyond bounds’ in drug war
  • Human Rights Watch accuse Duterte of trying to mislead the international community into believing his government was investigating unlawful killings

UNITED NATIONS: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that anyone found to have “acted beyond bounds” in his campaign against illegal drugs would be held accountable under national laws, while appearing to reject an International Criminal Court probe.
Duterte told the United Nations General Assembly he had instructed the justice ministry and police to review the conduct of the campaign, in which more than 6,100 suspected drug dealers have been killed since 2016. Activists say many thousands more, mostly users or small-time peddlers, were killed by mystery gunmen.
“Those found to have acted beyond bounds during operations shall be made accountable before our laws,” Duterte said in a video address to the annual gathering that drew criticism from rights groups.
Human Rights Watch accused Duterte of trying to mislead the international community into believing his government was investigating unlawful killings, noting that out of thousands of drug war killings only one case had resulted in a court conviction.
In a statement, Carlos Conde, Senior Philippines Researcher at Human Rights Watch, said what the public had got instead was “more propaganda and stonewalling by the authorities.”
Duterte made no mention of a formal investigation into possible crimes against humanity, which was approved by judges from the International Criminal Court last week, although he appeared to reject outside interference in human rights issues.
“We have recently finalized with the United Nations our Joint Program on Human Rights. This is a model for constructive engagement between a sovereign Member State and the United Nations,” he said.
“Meaningful change, to be enduring, must come from within. The imposition of one’s will over another – no matter how noble the intent – has never worked in the past. And it never will in the future.”
Duterte’s government said last week it will not cooperate with the ICC or allow any investigators into the Philippines. Duterte and his police chiefs have said the killings were in self-defense and his government has insisted the ICC has no right to meddle in the country’s affairs.
Rights groups say Duterte personally incited deadly violence in the drug war and accuse police of murdering unarmed suspects on a massive scale. Rights group say the police summarily executed suspects, which the policy deny.
In February, the Philippine police said they were looking into a government review of the killings after the justice minister made an unprecedented admission to the United Nations of widespread police failures.
In his speech, Duterte also said the Philippines would welcome an unspecified number of Rohingya Muslim refugees who had fled violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The justice ministry had been ordered to work with the UN High Commissioner on Refugees to make preparations, he said.
“The Philippines has limited resources during these extraordinary times. But what we can do for humanity and to uplift human dignity, we will,” Duterte said.


Israel opens West Bank crossing near prison break

Israel opens West Bank crossing near prison break
Updated 26 min 57 sec ago

Israel opens West Bank crossing near prison break

Israel opens West Bank crossing near prison break
  • Jalameh crossing into the northern West Bank would be open for the first time since September 6, when the prisoners escaped

TEL AVIV: Israel on Wednesday reopened a crossing with the occupied West Bank for the first time since six prisoners tunneled out of a nearby Israeli prison, a rare escape that triggered a massive search before they were all recaptured.
The Israeli military body that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank said the Jalameh crossing into the northern West Bank would be open for the first time since Sept. 6, when the prisoners escaped.
Six prisoners — five of them accused of deadly attacks against Israelis — tunneled out of Gilboa prison in northern Israel through a shaft in the floor of their bathroom in the biggest jailbreak of its kind in decades. They later split up into groups of two, and the final pair were apprehended over the weekend in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin.
The incident marked an embarrassing security breach for Israel and sparked a massive manhunt in northern Israel and the occupied West Bank. Lawyers for two of the prisoners said they were beaten during their arrest.
Palestinians consider prisoners held by Israel to be heroes of their national cause, and many celebrated the escape on social media.


Locked-down Melbourne tightens security for COVID-19 protests

Locked-down Melbourne tightens security for COVID-19 protests
Updated 22 September 2021

Locked-down Melbourne tightens security for COVID-19 protests

Locked-down Melbourne tightens security for COVID-19 protests
  • Police made more than 60 arrests on Tuesday after more than 2,000 protesters
  • Protesters again gathered in groups roaming across city streets on Wednesday

SYDNEY: Police fanned out across the center of Australia’s second-largest city of Melbourne on Wednesday in a bid to keep a lid on a third day of protests over COVID-19 lockdown curbs, as the state of Victoria recorded another rise in infections.
Police made more than 60 arrests on Tuesday after more than 2,000 protesters damaged property, blocked a busy freeway and injured three police after authorities shut construction sites for two weeks to limit the spread of the disease.
Protesters again gathered in groups roaming across city streets on Wednesday despite pleas for them to remain home, but largely avoided clashes with busloads of police, while state police chief Shane Patton vowed to prevent more violence.
“I’m not going to talk about the tactics we’ll deploy today,” Patton told media in Melbourne. “I want them to be completely unaware of what we’re going to do and what capacity they may face.”
By early afternoon, television footage showed several hundred protesters had gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance, a memorial near the city center honoring service in war, under the watch of police.
“There has been a couple of arrests,” Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent told radio station 3AW.
The protests followed a decision by authorities to make vaccines mandatory for construction workers and to enforce the closure of building sites from Tuesday, citing non-compliance with health rules.
Authorities and union officials have said extremist and far-right groups had joined the protest.
“There were some people there who you would say were from the building industry. There were others who were not ... they are not there to protest, they are there for a fight, pretend to be protesting,” said the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews.
Protesters have refused to speak to reporters on the scene, chanting “fake news” when approached, media said.
Australia’s largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne, as well as its capital, Canberra, have been in lockdown for weeks to contain a Delta outbreak.
It is the sixth lockdown for Melbourne, the most of any Australian city since the pandemic began.
Authorities aim to resume daily activities in Sydney and Melbourne in a staggered fashion, easing some curbs when the share of fully vaccinated adults in the population reaches 70 percent, which is expected next month.
Further relaxations will follow when the figure hits 80 percent.
Some 54 percent of people aged 16 and above are fully vaccinated in the most populous state of New South Wales and 45 percent in Victoria.
Despite the easing talk, Sydney canceled plans for a traditional 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve fireworks display for a second year in a row, but will probably stick with plans for a separate midnight display.
A city spokesperson said authorities aimed to limit the “mixing of crowds” between the two.
Victoria recorded 628 new infections on Wednesday, the year’s biggest one-day rise, exceeding the previous high of 603 a day before. New South Wales, whose capital is Sydney, had a total of 1,035 new infections, up from 1,022 on Tuesday.
Australia’s tally of infections stands at about 90,300, including 1,186 deaths, with eight new deaths reported.


Mayor of Philippine capital to seek presidency

Mayor of Philippine capital to seek presidency
Updated 22 September 2021

Mayor of Philippine capital to seek presidency

Mayor of Philippine capital to seek presidency
  • Manila Mayor Isko Moreno was a child scavenger before becoming an actor then entering politics
  • He said he was pushed to run not by high ambition but by the sorry state of the country

MANILA: The popular mayor of the Philippine capital said Wednesday he will run for president in next year’s elections, the latest aspirant in what is expected to be a crowded race to succeed the controversial Rodrigo Duterte.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, a child scavenger before becoming an actor then entering politics, said ahead of his public announcement that he would fight still-raging coronavirus outbreaks and long-entrenched poverty and promote democracy if he triumphs in the May 9 elections. He declared his bid in a speech at a public school in the slum area near where he grew up. With him was his vice presidential running mate, Willie Ong, a cardiologist who provides medical advice to ordinary Filipinos on a Facebook account with more than 16 million followers.
“In all humility, I announce to you my countrymen, this coming May please accept my application as president of the Philippines,” he said to the applause of his supporters.
He said he was pushed to run not by high ambition but by the sorry state of the country, as he criticized the Duterte administration’s pandemic response, including the lack of life-saving medicines to combat COVID-19.
““I have pulled myself out of the gutter with no Daddy Warbucks helping me along,” he said, adding that he believes in hard work and straight talk.
Of the poor, he said: “You give them red carpet treatment, not red tape.”
While the 46-year-old mayor is expected to bank on his rags-to-power life story, movie star looks and widely praised projects in Manila, including cleaning up its filthy main roads and restoring order in its chaotic streets and public markets, Moreno will be up against formidable national politicians and celebrities.
Two senators have declared their intent to run — international boxing star Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief. At least seven other politicians have said they were considering either a presidential run or lower posts, including Vice President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition; Duterte’s daughter, who is the mayor of their southern hometown city, and a son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Duterte’s successor stands to inherit enormous problems led by the pandemic, a battered economy, long-entrenched poverty and decades-long communist and Muslim insurgencies.
“This is not about Mr. and Mrs. Congeniality. This is about making hard decisions and sacrifices,” Moreno said. From “a rotten and downtrodden city,” Manila reemerged as a competitive and much-improved capital under him in less than two years “because of fast action and fast decision-making and not getting stuck by digging up past baggage and just moving on,” he said.
Moreno said he picked a doctor instead of a political heavyweight as his running mate so his vice president could focus on the pandemic while he leads efforts for an economic rebound if they win.
“It’s politically unorthodox, but it makes sense,” said Moreno.