Myanmar defies international pressure, denies ASEAN access to Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar defies international pressure, denies ASEAN access to Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi had been charged with several criminal offenses after a military junta grabbed power on February 1. (AFP)
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Updated 03 November 2021

Myanmar defies international pressure, denies ASEAN access to Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar defies international pressure, denies ASEAN access to Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Myanmar top official saw allowing a foreigner access to someone charged with crimes is against domestic law

Myanmar’s ruling military on Wednesday stood by its decision to deny a Southeast Asian envoy access to detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, resisting growing international pressure to comply with a regional peace plan agreed in April.
Vice-Senior General Soe Win, the second in command of the junta that seized power from Suu Kyi’s elected government in February, said allowing a foreigner access to someone charged with crimes was against domestic law.
“I believe no country will allow anyone to do beyond the existing law like this,” he said in a speech published in state media.
His remarks follow last week’s virtual Asian leader summits hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which Myanmar did not attend, in protest at junta leader Min Aung Hlaing’s exclusion for not honoring the peace deal.
It called that a breach of ASEAN’s code of consensus and non-interference and refused to send junior representation.
Soe Win rejected the allegation of non-compliance and said the April agreement with ASEAN had been contingent on it considering Myanmar’s “current internal affairs,” with the envoy’s access to the country “based on internal stability.”
Soe Win’s rebuttal was delivered at a virtual meeting on Tuesday of ASEAN auditors.
He said demands on Myanmar made at last week’s Asian summits were “found to be suspicious of violating the images of ASEAN’s solidarity.”
Myanmar has been paralyzed by protests, strikes and violence since the coup, with the junta struggling to govern and facing armed resistance from militias and ethnic minority rebels allied with a shadow government that it calls “terrorists”.
More than 1,200 civilians have been killed by security forces, according to a local monitoring group cited by the United Nations, which the junta has accused of bias.


Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says

Updated 5 sec ago

Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says

Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says
ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s military is planning to enter the Tigray regional capital of Mekelle and “eliminate” rebellious forces, a top military official said late on Friday amid diplomatic efforts to end conflict in the country’s north.
The Horn of Africa country has been gripped by war for more than a year, with the federal military and its allies battling forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls Tigray.
This week two top US diplomats flew into Addis Ababa to push for a cease-fire, building on tentative signs of a thaw in relations between warring parties, including the release of political prisoners.
In an interview with state-affiliated media outlet Fana broadcast late on Friday, Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF) deputy army chief, General Abebaw Tadesse said the country would not be at peace until the TPLF was eliminated.
“Tigray is part of Ethiopia and no force will stop us from entering. We will enter and we will eliminate the enemy. There shouldn’t be any confusion about this,” he said.
“The people of Ethiopia shouldn’t think that it is over, it is not over. The main thing here is we have stopped because we have to prepare ourselves. This enemy is still there, and it has to be absolutely eliminated. We will not negotiate with them.”
The TPLF’s spokesman, Getachew Reda, could not be reached for a comment on the military official’s remarks.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The TPLF says Abiy wants to end the country’s ethnically-based federal government system while Abiy says the TPLF is hungry to seize the national power it once held.
For months there has been an uneasy stalemate between the two sides, punctuated by sporadic fighting. TPLF forces control most of Tigray but are surrounded by hostile forces from neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara which are allied with the federal military.
The conflict, which broke out in November 2020, has displaced millions and triggered widespread hunger.
In recent months there have been multiple diplomatic and political efforts to end it, including pressure from the United States pushing for rapprochement between the two sides.

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’
Updated 22 January 2022

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’
  • Talks between the Taliban and Western officials will open in Oslo on Sunday on human rights and humanitarian aid as a poverty crisis deepens

KABUL: The Taliban’s first official talks with the West on European soil since seizing power in Afghanistan will help to “transform the atmosphere of war” after a two-decade insurgency against NATO forces, the group’s top spokesman told AFP Saturday.
The hard-line Islamists stormed back to power in August as US and foreign troops began their final withdrawal from the country following a stalemate on the battlefield.
No country has yet recognized the Taliban’s government — notorious for human rights abuses during a first stint in power between 1996 and 2001 when they were ousted by a US-led invasion.
“The Islamic Emirate has taken steps for meeting the demands of the Western world and we hope to strengthen our relations through diplomacy with all the countries, including European countries and the West in general,” Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP on Saturday.
The Taliban want to “transform the atmosphere of war... into a peaceful situation.”
Talks between the Taliban and Western officials will open in Oslo on Sunday on human rights and humanitarian aid as a poverty crisis deepens.
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated drastically since the Taliban’s takeover. International aid came to a sudden halt and the United States has frozen $9.5 billion (8.4 billion euros) in Afghan central bank assets held overseas.
Hunger now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55 percent of the population, according to the United Nations, which says it needs $5 billion from donor countries this year to address the humanitarian crisis in the country.
The visit from Sunday to Tuesday will see meetings between the hard-line Islamists, Norwegian authorities and officials from a number of allied countries including Britain, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy and the United States, the Norwegian foreign ministry statement said.
The Taliban delegation is also expected to meet Afghans from civil society, including women leaders and journalists, at a time when the freedoms of those living in Afghanistan are being increasingly curtailed.
“These meetings do not represent a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said Friday.
“But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster.”
The Taliban delegation, led by foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, was due to leave for Oslo on Saturday.
Ali Maisam Nazary, the foreign relations chief for the National Resistance Front (NRF) — an opposition group that bills itself as the last bastion against total Taliban control — condemned Norway over the talks.
“We all must raise our voices and prevent any country from normalizing a terrorist group as the representative of Afghanistan,” Nazary, who is based in Paris, tweeted on Friday.


Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia
Updated 22 January 2022

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia
  • There have been sporadic deadly clashes between the two sides in recent years

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s second most powerful leader was heading to Ethiopia on Saturday, a rare visit by an official from Khartoum that comes amid border tensions, state media said.
Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, widely known as Hemeti, who is number two in Sudan’s ruling council, will be in Ethiopia on a two-day official visit to meet “several Ethiopian officials,” the SUNA news agency reported.
Daglo is head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a much feared and powerful paramilitary unit that is accused of atrocities in the western region of Darfur.
Relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa deteriorated due to a territorial conflict over the disputed Al-Fashaqa border region, where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land claimed by Sudan.
There have been sporadic deadly clashes between the two sides in recent years.
Al-Fashaqa also borders Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, and tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan fleeing fighting.
In November, Sudan’s armed forces said six soldiers were killed in an attack by armed groups and militias linked to the Ethiopian military, a report denied by Addis Ababa, who blamed rebels from Tigray.
Sudan, along with Egypt, is also locked in a bitter dispute over Ethiopia’s mega-dam on the Blue Nile.
The two downstream countries, dependent on the river for most of their water, see Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam as an existential threat.
Both Khartoum and Addis Ababa are mired in crises.
Sudan has been rocked by weeks of mass demonstrations since an October 25 military takeover that derailed the country’s fragile transition to civilian rule, with at least 73 anti-coup protesters killed in a bloody crackdown.
Ethiopia still seeks to end a conflict that broke out in November 2020 following months of mounting rancour between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the former ruling party of the northernmost Tigray region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The fighting has displaced millions, and, according to UN estimates, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.


Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital
Updated 22 January 2022

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital
  • Mahathir Mohamad was admitted to the cardiac care unit at the National Heart Institute but gave no details

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been admitted to hospital, a spokesperson for him said on Saturday.
The spokesperson said Mahathir was admitted to the cardiac care unit at the National Heart Institute but gave no details.


Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time

Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time
Updated 22 January 2022

Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time

Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time
  • Case count jumps nearly 2.5 times from 4,561 lodged a week before

TOKYO: Tokyo recorded its fourth record number of daily COVID-19 infections on Saturday, breaking above 10,000, while Japan’s exceeded 50,000 for the first time as the omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.
The capital had 11,227 new coronavirus cases, the local government said a day after it reinstated curbs on mobility and business activity through Feb. 13.
Tokyo’s case count, exceeding Friday’s 9,699, were more than double the 4,561 logged a week earlier.
Three people in Tokyo died of COVID-19 and 12 were in serious condition on Saturday, the Tokyo government said.
Some 34.3 percent of hospital beds in the capital were being used by coronavirus patients. A rise in the occupancy rate to 50 percent would warrant a state of emergency with more severe restrictions, local officials have said.
Osaka prefecture announced 7,375 infections, a second consecutive record, and two deaths.
Infections nationwide totalled at least 50,200 as nearly 30 of Japan’s 47 prefectures set records, broadcaster FNN reported.
As of Friday, 78.7 percent of Japan’s population had been fully vaccinated, but only 1.5 percent had received a booster shot, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The health ministry on Friday approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11 in an effort to ramp up the vaccination rate.