Myanmar court delays Suu Kyi walkie-talkie verdict again

Myanmar court delays Suu Kyi walkie-talkie verdict again
Aung San Suu Kyi was jailed for four years for incitement against the military and breaching COVID-19 restrictions. (AP)
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Updated 27 December 2021

Myanmar court delays Suu Kyi walkie-talkie verdict again

Myanmar court delays Suu Kyi walkie-talkie verdict again
  • The Nobel laureate has been detained since the generals staged a coup against her government on February 1

YANGON: A Myanmar junta court on Monday again postponed giving its verdict in Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial for illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, a source with knowledge of the case said.
The Nobel laureate has been detained since the generals staged a coup against her government on February 1, ending the Southeast Asian country’s brief period of democracy.
Nationwide protests against the putsch have been met with a bloody crackdown, with more than 1,300 people killed and over 11,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.
Suu Kyi, 76, was due to hear the verdict on charges she illegally imported and possessed walkie-talkies – the latest in a catalogue of judgments in a junta court that could see her jailed for the rest of her life.
But the judge adjourned the verdict until January 10, a source with knowledge of the case said, without giving details.
Earlier this month, Suu Kyi was jailed for four years for incitement against the military and breaching COVID-19 restrictions, in a ruling that was widely condemned by the international community.
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing later commuted the term to two years and said she would serve her sentence under house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw.
Suu Kyi had faced three years in prison if found guilty on the walkie-talkie charges, which stem from the early hours of the coup when soldiers and police raided her house and allegedly found her in possession of the contraband equipment.
Suu Kyi is also charged with multiple counts of corruption – each of which is punishable by 15 years in jail – and violating the official secrets act.
Journalists have been barred from attending the special court hearings in Naypyidaw and her lawyers were recently banned from speaking to the media.


Japan to allow limited foreign package tours as experiment

Japan to allow limited foreign package tours as experiment
Updated 6 sec ago

Japan to allow limited foreign package tours as experiment

Japan to allow limited foreign package tours as experiment
  • Participants must be triple-vaccinated and the tours must have guides and fixed itineraries
  • The experiment is expected to start sometime next week and continue until the end of May
TOKYO: Japan’s government announced Tuesday it will begin allowing small package tours from four countries later this month before gradually opening up to foreign tourism for the first time since it imposed tight border restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said the tours will be allowed from Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States as an experiment.
Participants must be triple-vaccinated and the tours must have guides and fixed itineraries, the Japan Tourism Agency said. Each tour can have a maximum of four people, and a total of 50 participants are expected to join the experiment, the government agency said.
Participants will enter Japan on a special visa, not a tourist visa, the agency said. The results will be used to compile coronavirus guidelines for tour operators, hotels and other related businesses, it said.
The experiment is expected to start sometime next week and continue until the end of May. Further details, including the duration and destination of the tours, still have to be decided, the agency said.
Japan’s tourism industry, hit hard by the strict border controls, is eager for foreign tourism to resume. COVID-19 infections have slowed in Japan since earlier this year and the government is gradually expanding social and economic activity.
After facing criticism that its strict border controls were xenophobic, Japan began easing restrictions earlier this year and currently allows entry of up to 10,000 people from abroad per day, including Japanese nationals, foreign students and some business travelers. The government is reportedly considering doubling the daily cap to 20,000 in coming weeks. Currently, foreign tourists are not allowed to enter.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a speech during a visit to London earlier this month that he plans to ease the border controls as early as June in line with the policies of other Group of Seven industrialized countries, but gave no further details.
Foreign tourist arrivals fell more than 90 percent in 2020 from a record 31.9 million the year before, almost wiping out the pre-pandemic inbound tourism market of more than 4 trillion yen ($31 billion).

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth attends opening of London Tube line

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth attends opening of London Tube line
Updated 2 min 34 sec ago

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth attends opening of London Tube line

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth attends opening of London Tube line
  • The $24 billion rail project has been repeatedly delayed by issues with safety testing and signalling systems
  • Elizabeth has been seen in public on only a few occasions after she spent a night in hospital last October

LONDON: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday made a surprise appearance at a ceremony to mark the completion of a long-awaited London Tube line named in her honor.
Elizabeth, wearing a bright yellow hat and coat and using a walking stick, unveiled a plaque at Paddington Station. She was joined by her son Edward and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
It is the latest public outing for the 96-year-old monarch who, despite missing a speech in parliament last week due to mobility issues, twice attended a horse show at her Windsor Castle residence in recent days.
“In a happy development Her Majesty The Queen is attending today’s event to mark the completion of the Elizabeth line,” a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth looks on during an event to mark the completion of the Elizabeth Line at Paddington Station in London, Britain, May 17, 2022. (Reuters)


The $24 billion rail project was originally due to be opened in December 2018, but had been repeatedly delayed by issues with safety testing and signalling systems, even before the onset of the pandemic.
Originally named ‘Crossrail’, the Elizabeth line will connect destinations west of London, including Heathrow airport and Reading with Shenfield in the east. It will open to the public on May 24.
Elizabeth has been seen in public on only a few occasions after she spent a night in hospital last October for an unspecified illness, after which she was told to rest by her doctors.
She has since carried out duties either remotely or in person at her Windsor Castle home and did not attend last week’s state opening of parliament.


Japan congratulates Somalia on electing a new president

Japan congratulates Somalia on electing a new president
Updated 17 May 2022

Japan congratulates Somalia on electing a new president

Japan congratulates Somalia on electing a new president

TOKYO: Japan on Monday congratulated Somalia on electing Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as a new president, and said it hopes Somalia will be able to make further progress in consolidating peace in the country. 

The foreign ministry in Tokyo said that in light of the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 8), which will be held this year, Japan will continue its support for peace and stability in Somalia in collaboration with the international community.

This story was originally published on Arab News Japan


Japan condemns Israel for its illegal settlement construction

Japan condemns Israel for its illegal settlement construction
Updated 17 May 2022

Japan condemns Israel for its illegal settlement construction

Japan condemns Israel for its illegal settlement construction

TOKYO: The Japanese government deplored Israel’s decision to advance plans to construct over 4,000 housing units in settlements on the occupied territories in the West Bank and urged Israel to reverse the decision and fully freeze its settlement activities.

“The Government of Japan remains seriously concerned by and deeply deplores the continued settlement activities by the government of Israel despite repeated calls from Japan and the international community,” an official statement by the foreign ministry said.

Japan stressed that Israel’s illegal settlement plans “violates the international law and undermine the viability of a two-state solution” and called on the Israelis to refrain from actions that escalate tensions.

This story was originally published on Arab News Japan


North Korea mobilizes army, steps up tracing amid COVID-19 wave

North Korea mobilizes army, steps up tracing amid COVID-19 wave
Updated 17 May 2022

North Korea mobilizes army, steps up tracing amid COVID-19 wave

North Korea mobilizes army, steps up tracing amid COVID-19 wave
  • Isolated country is grappling with its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak
  • The WHO has warned the virus may spread rapidly in North Korea

SEOUL: North Korea has mobilized its military to distribute COVID-19 medications and deployed more than 10,000 health workers to help trace potential patients, as it fights a sweeping coronavirus wave, state media outlet KCNA said on Tuesday.
The isolated country is grappling with its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak, which it confirmed last week, fueling concerns over a major crisis due to a lack of vaccines and adequate medical infrastructure.
The state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters reported 269,510 more people with fever symptoms, bringing the total to 1.48 million, while the death toll grew by six to 56 as of Monday evening, KCNA said. It did not say how many people had tested positive for COVID-19.
The country has not started mass vaccinations and has limited testing capabilities, raising concerns that it may be difficult to assess how widely and rapidly the disease is spreading and verify the number of confirmed cases and deaths.
“The numbers are simply unreliable, but the sheer numbers of people having fever are worrisome,” said Lee Jae-gap, a professor of infectious diseases at Hallym University School of Medicine.
He said that the death count would surge over time, but that Pyongyang might be tempted to keep the publicly available numbers low to avoid a political crisis.
“I don’t think the North Korean regime can afford to release any surging death toll, which would sour public sentiment.”
Gauging COVID-19 deaths from outside North Korea would require comparing excess mortality figures long after the wave dies down, but the North does not conduct annual census studies, said Eom Joong-sik, a professor of infectious diseases at Gachon University Gil Medical Center in South Korea.
KCNA reported enhanced virus control efforts. It said “a powerful force” of the army’s medical corps was immediately deployed to improve the supply of medicines in the capital Pyongyang, the center of the epidemic, following an order by leader Kim Jong Un.
The team’s mission was aimed at “defusing the public health crisis” in Pyongyang, it said.
Some senior members of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful politburo visited pharmacies and medicine management offices to check supply and demand, KCNA said in another dispatch, after Kim criticized ineffective distribution of drugs.
“They called for establishing a more strict order in keeping and handling the medical supplies, maintaining the principle of prioritising the demand and convenience of the people in the supply,” KCNA said.
Tracing efforts were also intensified, with some 11,000 health officials, teachers and medical students joining an “intensive medical examination of all inhabitants” across the country to locate and treat people with fever.
Still, various sectors of the national economy are maintaining production and construction, while taking thorough anti-virus measures, KCNA added. Kim had ordered that limited activity be allowed in each city and county.
The World Health Organization has warned the virus may spread rapidly in North Korea, which had no vaccination program and declined international help.
Many of the medicines being distributed there are painkillers and fever reducers such as ibuprofen, and amoxicillin and other antibiotics — which do not fight viruses but are sometimes prescribed for secondary bacterial infections. Home remedies such as gargling salt water have also been encouraged.
South Korea offered working-level talks on Monday to send medical supplies, including vaccines, masks and test kits, as well as technical cooperation, but said the North had not acknowledged its message.
An official at Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, said on Tuesday that there had been no reply yet from the North but that the office plans to “wait without pressing for a response.”
The US State Department said it was concerned about the outbreak’s potential impact on North Koreans, and supports vaccine aid to the country.
“We strongly support and encourage the efforts of US and international aid and health organizations in seeking to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 ... and to provide other forms of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups in the country,” a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson confirmed that the US envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, had a phone call with South Korea’s new nuclear negotiator, Kim Gunn, without elaborating.