New clashes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state displace 26,000: UN

Myanmar military soldiers who have surrendered to the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force ride in the back of a vehicle in Loikaw, Myanmar, in this still image taken from video released November 15, 2023. (REUTERS)
Myanmar military soldiers who have surrendered to the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force ride in the back of a vehicle in Loikaw, Myanmar, in this still image taken from video released November 15, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 18 November 2023
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New clashes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state displace 26,000: UN

New clashes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state displace 26,000: UN
  • The military took control of the town later in the day, and on Friday local media cited residents saying that around 50 people had been detained and an unknown number were feared dead

YANGON, Myanmar: Renewed fighting this week between Myanmar’s military and an ethnic minority armed group has displaced more than 26,000 people in western Rakhine state, the United Nations said on Friday.
Ongoing clashes between the Arakan Army (AA) and the military “have resulted in the displacement of 26,175 people” across Rakhine, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an update.
AA fighters launched attacks on security forces in Rakhine and neighboring Chin state on Monday, ending a shaky cease-fire and opening another front as the military battles opponents in the north and east.
UNOCHA said at least 11 people had been killed in military shelling of AA positions since Monday.
On Thursday junta troops shelled the town of Pauktaw, 16 miles (25 kilometers) west of state capital Sittwe, and shot at it from helicopters after AA fighters briefly seized the police station, residents told AFP.
The military took control of the town later in the day, and on Friday local media cited residents saying that around 50 people had been detained and an unknown number were feared dead.
UNOCHA said 19,000 people had been displaced from Pauktaw.
“Virtually all” roads and waterways connecting Rakhine townships have been blocked, UNOCHA said, adding most humanitarian activities in affected townships had been suspended.
It added more than 100 people had reportedly been detained by junta authorities since the renewed clashes.
For years the AA has fought a war for the autonomy of the state’s ethnic Rakhine population in their home near the border with Bangladesh.

Since last month AA fighters, in alliance with two other armed ethnic minority groups, have been battling the junta across a swathe of northern Shan state near the border with China.
The alliance, which includes the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has seized towns and blocked vital trade routes to Myanmar’s northern neighbor.
The offensive has galvanized other opponents of the military, with clashes spreading to Myanmar’s western and eastern borders in what analysts say is the biggest military challenge to the junta since it seized power in 2021.
On Friday anti-coup fighters in eastern Kayah state said they had torched a courthouse in the state capital Loikaw amid clashes with security forces in and around the city.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday he was “deeply concerned” about the widening conflict.
 

 


Ukrainian fighter pilots train in France during European training drive

Updated 3 sec ago
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Ukrainian fighter pilots train in France during European training drive

Ukrainian fighter pilots train in France during European training drive
Other countries including the Netherlands, Denmark and Romania are seeking to help Ukraine train its F-16 pilots
A dozen Ukrainians, some of whom have received prior training in Britain, are currently also undergoing “advanced training” for “several months”

PARIS: Future Ukrainian fighter pilots likely to fly American F-16 aircraft are receiving their initial training in the south of France with the French Air Force, the French defense minister said on Friday, amid a European training push.
The pilots are receiving “general training on the Alpha Jet (a Franco-German military aircraft), which enables Ukrainian pilots to acquire the fundamentals of flying a fighter jet,” Sebastien Lecornu said in an interview with the newspaper Ouest France.
Other countries including the Netherlands, Denmark and Romania are seeking to help Ukraine train its F-16 pilots following the green light given by the United States.
A dozen Ukrainians, some of whom have received prior training in Britain, are currently also undergoing “advanced training” for “several months” in an undisclosed location to learn how to fly fighter jets, according to a military source.
They will then join specific F-16 training programs in countries allied with Ukraine that have the aircraft, while Kyiv awaits their delivery, the same source added. France’s military does not use the F-16.
Lecornu pointed out on Friday that the French armed forces had succeeded in adapting AASM air-to-ground guided bombs on Soviet-class aircraft held by the Ukrainians.
“We have taken the lead with these AASM bombs to be able to supply Ukraine with them,” Lecornu said.
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, France has trained 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers on its own territory and in Poland.

13 arrested over killing of Oromo opposition figure

Bate Urgessa. (Supplied)
Bate Urgessa. (Supplied)
Updated 48 min 42 sec ago
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13 arrested over killing of Oromo opposition figure

Bate Urgessa. (Supplied)
  • The 41-year-old Bate had been released on bail early last month following his arrest alongside French journalist Antoine Galindo in February

ADDIS ABABA: Police in Ethiopia have arrested 13 suspects over the killing of a prominent opposition figure from the restive state of Oromia, official regional media reported.
The body of Bate Urgessa of the Oromo Liberation Front or OLF was found dumped on a road outside the town of Meki on Wednesday, shortly after he had been arrested by “government forces,” the party said.
The US, the EU, and Britain have joined rights campaigners in calling for a full investigation into the killing of Bate, an outspoken politician who had spent several years in and out of detention.
Police in the East Shawa zone where Meki is located have arrested 13 suspects over the shooting, the Oromia Broadcasting Network said on Facebook late on Thursday, adding that Bate had been buried in a ceremony in Meki that day.
No details about the suspects were disclosed.

BACKGROUND

The US, the EU, and Britain have joined rights campaigners in calling for a full investigation into the killing of Bate Urgessa, an outspoken politician who had spent several years in and out of detention.

The 41-year-old Bate had been released on bail early last month following his arrest alongside French journalist Antoine Galindo in February.
However, OLF spokesman Lemi Gemechu said he was arrested again late on Tuesday by “government armed forces” at a hotel in his hometown of Meki, 150 km south of the capital Addis Ababa.
“He was then briefly taken to a detention center in the city,” Lemi said.
Bate’s family said he was found dead on Wednesday morning on a road on the outskirts of Meki, he added. There have been calls at home and abroad for a full investigation into his death.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission — an independent state-affiliated body — urged both the regional and central governments to conduct a “prompt, impartial and full investigation” into Bate’s killing.
The US also called for a full investigation, the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs said in a statement on X on Wednesday.
“Justice and accountability are critical for breaking the cycle of violence,” it added.
The British ambassador in Ethiopia, Darren Welch, issued a similar message, adding: “As well as justice and accountability, political dialogue is needed to end the cycle of violence affecting civilians in Oromia.”
The EU ambassador to Addis Ababa, Roland Kobia, also supported the human rights commission’s call, saying on X: “This is part of the need to ensure accountability, justice, and reconciliation.”
The largest and most populous region of Ethiopia, Oromia has been in the grip of an armed insurrection since 2018.
The OLF renounced armed struggle that year after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, himself an ethnic Oromo, came to power, prompting the Oromo Liberation Arm or OLA to split from the party.
Federal forces have been fighting OLA rebels in Oromia ever since, while peace talks have failed to yield meaningful progress.
Classified as a “terrorist organization” and referred to as OLF-Shane by Addis Ababa, the OLA has been accused by the government of orchestrating massacres, which the rebels deny.
The authorities, in turn, are accused of waging an indiscriminate crackdown that has fueled Oromo resentment.
The Oromo ethnic group accounts for about a third of the 120 million inhabitants of Africa’s second most populous country.

 


US, Japan, Philippines condemn Beijing’s South China Sea moves in summit

US, Japan, Philippines condemn Beijing’s South China Sea moves in summit
Updated 12 April 2024
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US, Japan, Philippines condemn Beijing’s South China Sea moves in summit

US, Japan, Philippines condemn Beijing’s South China Sea moves in summit
  • China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Friday the statement amounted to a “wanton smear attack” and Beijing summoned a Japanese diplomat to protest against the comments

WASHINGTON: Long-simmering tensions between China and its neighbors took center stage on Thursday as leaders of the US, Japan and the Philippines met at the White House to push back on Beijing’s stepped-up pressure on Manila in the disputed South China Sea.
US President Joe Biden’s administration announced new joint military efforts and infrastructure spending in the former American colony while he hosted Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington for a first-of-its-kind trilateral summit.
Topping the meeting’s agenda was China’s increasing pressure in the South China Sea, which has escalated despite a personal appeal by Biden to Chinese President Xi Jinping last year.

HIGHLIGHT

Launching the White House meeting with the three leaders, Biden affirmed that a 1950s era mutual defense treaty binding Washington and Manila would require the US to respond to an armed attack on the Philippines in the South China Sea.

“We express our serious concerns about the People’s Republic of China’s dangerous and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. We are also concerned by the militarization of reclaimed features and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea,” the countries said in a statement issued after the summit.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Friday the statement amounted to a “wanton smear attack” and Beijing summoned a Japanese diplomat to protest against the comments.
The Philippines and China had several maritime run-ins last month that included the use of water cannon and heated verbal exchanges. The disputes center on the Second Thomas Shoal, home to a small number of Filipino troops stationed on a warship that Manila grounded there in 1999 to reinforce its sovereignty claims.
Launching the White House meeting with the three leaders, Biden affirmed that a 1950s era mutual defense treaty binding Washington and Manila would require the US to respond to an armed attack on the Philippines in the South China Sea.
“United States defense commitments to Japan and to the Philippines are iron clad,” he said.
Marcos has successfully pushed Washington to resolve longstanding ambiguity over the treaty by specifying that it would apply to disputes in that sea.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including the maritime economic zones of neighboring nations. The Second Thomas Shoal is within the Philippines’ 200-mile (320-km) exclusive economic zone.

A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration found that China’s sweeping claims have no legal basis.
Japan has a dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea.
The three countries said their coast guards planned to conduct a trilateral exercise in the Indo-Pacific region in the coming year and establish a dialogue to enhance future cooperation.
The moves come after two prominent US senators introduced a bipartisan bill on Wednesday to provide Manila with $2.5 billion to boost its defenses against Chinese pressure.
“China’s frequent tactic is to try to isolate the target of its pressure campaigns, but the April 11 trilateral signals clearly that the Philippines is not alone,” said Daniel Russel, who served as the top US diplomat for East Asia under former President Barack Obama.
The leaders also unveiled a wide range of agreements to enhance economic ties during the meetings, including backing new infrastructure in the Philippines, aimed at ports, rail, clean energy and semiconductor supply chains.

 

 


Ireland says moving closer to recognizing Palestinian state

Ireland says moving closer to recognizing Palestinian state
Updated 12 April 2024
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Ireland says moving closer to recognizing Palestinian state

Ireland says moving closer to recognizing Palestinian state
  • “Let me this evening say our assessment is that that point is coming much closer and we would like to move together in doing so,” Harris said after meeting Sanchez
  • “The people of Israel deserve a secure and peaceful future, so do the people of Palestine. Equal sovereignty, equal respect“

DUBLIN: Ireland is close to formally recognizing a Palestinian state and would like to do so in concert with Spain and other like-minded countries, new prime minister Simon Harris said on Friday after meeting his Spanish counterpart.
Spain and Ireland, long champions of Palestinian rights, last month announced alongside Malta and Slovenia that they would jointly work toward the recognition of a Palestinian state.
The efforts come as a mounting death toll in Gaza from Israel’s offensive to rout out Hamas prompts calls globally for a ceasefire and lasting solution for peace in the region.
“Let me this evening say our assessment is that that point is coming much closer and we would like to move together in doing so,” Harris said after meeting Sanchez, the first premier to visit Dublin since Harris became prime minister this week.
“When we move forward, we would like to do so with as many others as possible to lend weight to the decision and to send the strongest message. The people of Israel deserve a secure and peaceful future, so do the people of Palestine. Equal sovereignty, equal respect.”
Israel told the four EU countries that committed to moving toward Palestinian recognition that their initiative would amount to a “prize for terrorism” that would reduce the chances of a negotiated resolution to the generations-old conflict.
The meeting with Harris was part of a number Sanchez planned this week with EU counterparts to try to garner support for the recognition of a Palestinian state.
Sanchez said following a meeting in Oslo with his Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Store earlier on Friday that there were “clear signs” in Europe that countries in the region were prepared to recognize a Palestinian state.
Sanchez has previously said he expects Madrid to extend recognition to Palestinians by July.
Harris said Dublin would continue discussions with other like-minded countries in Europe and beyond, including at next week’s meeting of EU leaders.
Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said earlier this week that he was preparing to bring a formal proposal to government on the recognition of a Palestinian state.
Since 1988, 139 out of 193 United Nations member states have recognized Palestinian statehood.


Prominent surgeon says he was denied entry to Germany for a pro-Palestinian conference

Prominent surgeon says he was denied entry to Germany for a pro-Palestinian conference
Updated 47 min 11 sec ago
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Prominent surgeon says he was denied entry to Germany for a pro-Palestinian conference

Prominent surgeon says he was denied entry to Germany for a pro-Palestinian conference
  • Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta said he arrived at Berlin airport on Friday morning before being stopped at passport control, where he was held for several hours and then told he had to return to the UK
  • Abu Sitta said his ban was to last until Sunday, covering the planned duration of the Berlin conference he was to attend, entitled the Palestine Congress

BERLIN: A prominent British-Palestinian surgeon who volunteered in Gaza hospitals during the first weeks of the Israel-Hamas war said he was denied entry to Germany Friday to take part in a pro-Palestinian conference — an event that police later ended early.
Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta said he arrived at Berlin airport on Friday morning before being stopped at passport control, where he was held for several hours and then told he had to return to the UK
Airport police said he was refused entry due to “the safety of the people at the conference and public order,” Abu Sitta told The Associated Press by phone. There was no immediate comment from German federal police.
Abu Sitta said his ban was to last until Sunday, covering the planned duration of the Berlin conference he was to attend, entitled the Palestine Congress. The gathering was to discuss a range of topics, including German arms shipments to Israel and solidarity with what organizers called the Palestinian struggle.
Berlin police said later Friday they pulled the plug on the event, attended by up to 250 people, on its first day after a livestream was shown of a person who is banned from political activity in Germany. They wouldn’t identify the person, but said they decided after a legal assessment to end the congress and asked those attending to leave.
Organizers wrote on social network X that the conference was “banned by the police without reason.”
Germany remains one of Israel’s staunchest defenders, even at a time of growing international outrage over the soaring Palestinian death toll in Gaza, which has surpassed 33,000.
German officials have stressed Israel’s right and duty to defend itself since the start of the war — though their tone has gradually shifted, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock increasingly decrying the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and calling on Israel to allow more aid to reach the territory.
Shortly after Hamas’ Oct. 7. attack on Israel, the German government implemented a formal ban on activity by or in support of Hamas.
Since the war erupted, Germany has clamped down on many pro-Palestinian activities and demonstrations, with officials citing fears of possible antisemitic or anti-Israel incitement.
The hard line has broad political support at home, but has drawn criticism.
“Germany’s deportation of Dr. Abu Sitta is a naked act of authoritarian censorship, more in line with the policies of dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and China than a rights-respecting democracy,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Washington-based human rights watchdog Democracy for the Arab World Now, or DAWN, said in a statement.
Abu Sitta, who recently volunteered with Doctors Without Borders in Gaza, has worked during multiple conflicts in the Palestinian territories, beginning in the late 1980s during the first Palestinian uprising. He has also worked in other conflict zones, including in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Friday’s congress was viewed with great wariness by German officials before it started and was heavily policed.
Earlier on Friday, German Interior Ministry spokesperson Maximilian Kall told reporters in Berlin that federal security authorities had been in touch with their local counterparts in the capital “about questions of, for instance, entry bans,” he said. He added that he couldn’t give details.