Myanmar junta extends state of emergency by 6 months

Myanmar junta extends state of emergency by 6 months
Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing, above, during a defense and security council meeting in Naypyidaw. (Myanmar Military Information Team/AFP)
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Updated 31 January 2024
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Myanmar junta extends state of emergency by 6 months

Myanmar junta extends state of emergency by 6 months
  • The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the February 2021 coup
  • The junta has extended the state of emergency multiple times since declaring it

YANGON: Myanmar’s junta on Wednesday extended a state of emergency by six months, again delaying elections the military has promised to hold as it battles opposition across the country.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the February 2021 coup which ended a ten-year experiment with democracy and sparked mass protests and a crackdown on dissent.
Three years on, the junta is struggling to crush widespread armed opposition to its rule and recently suffered a series of stunning setbacks to an alliance of ethnic minority armed groups.
Acting president U Myint Swe “announced the extension of the state of emergency for another six months” at a meeting of the national defense and security council, the junta said in a statement.
The extension of the state of emergency — due to expire at midnight on Wednesday — was needed to “continue the process of combatting terrorists,” the statement added.
The council discussed “preparations for holding multi-party elections” and the holding of a national census at a meeting in the military-built capital Naypyidaw, it said, without giving details.
The military declared a state of emergency when it ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February 2021, citing unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud in 2020 elections her party won in a landslide.
It has extended the state of emergency multiple times since, delaying fresh elections it has promised to hold.
Myanmar’s military-drafted 2008 constitution, which the junta has said is still in force, requires authorities to hold fresh elections within six months of a state of emergency being lifted.
A surprise offensive in late October by an alliance of ethnic armed groups in northern Shan state sent the junta reeling.
The Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) seized roads to the country’s biggest trading partner China and captured dozens of military outposts.
Troops surrendered in their thousands and military units fled into India and China, prompting rare public criticism of the junta leadership by its supporters.
A China-brokered peace deal has since paused the fighting in the north, but the alliance has largely kept its recent gains and clashes continue elsewhere.
The setbacks have also galvanized pro-democracy groups to renew their attacks on the military elsewhere in the country.
Independent Myanmar analyst David Mathieson said the move was “a totally expected extension for a crumbling regime.”
More than 4,400 people have been killed in the military’s crackdown on dissent and over 25,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.
The junta has said that “terrorists” opposing its rule have killed more than 6,000 civilians.
More than two million people have been displaced by violence since the putsch, according to the United Nations.


Spain hosts meeting with Foreign Ministerial Committee of Arabic and Islamic countries for Gaza

Spain hosts meeting with Foreign Ministerial Committee of Arabic and Islamic countries for Gaza
Updated 2 min 26 sec ago
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Spain hosts meeting with Foreign Ministerial Committee of Arabic and Islamic countries for Gaza

Spain hosts meeting with Foreign Ministerial Committee of Arabic and Islamic countries for Gaza
  • Palestinian PM was joined by Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani
  • More than 140 countries recognize a Palestinian state

BARCELONA, Spain: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez met with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa and leading officials from several Middle Eastern countries in Madrid on Wednesday after Spain, Ireland and Norway recognized a Palestinian state.
The diplomatic move by the three western European nations on Tuesday was slammed by Israel and will have little immediate impact on its grinding war in Gaza, but it was a victory for the Palestinians and could encourage other Western powers to follow suit.
“On behalf of President (Mahmoud) Abbas and the government of Palestine, the people of Palestine, we warmly welcome Spain’s recognition of the state of Palestine,” Mustafa said after their meeting with Spain’s leader and Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares.
Mustafa was joined by Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Organization of Islamic Cooperation chairman Hussain Ibrahim Taha, and the foreign ministers for Turkiye and Jordan, members of the group called the Foreign Ministerial Committee of Arabic and Islamic countries for Gaza.
More than 140 countries recognize a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of the United Nations.
With Spain and Ireland, there are now nine members of the 27-nation European Union that officially recognize a Palestinian state. Norway is not an EU member but its foreign policy is usually aligned with the bloc.
Slovenia, an EU member, will decide on the recognition of a Palestinian state on Thursday and forward its decision to parliament for final approval.
“We salute Spain, and we salute Norway, Ireland and Slovenia for doing the right thing. We urge other European partners to do the same thing,” said Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.
The move to recognize a Palestinian state has caused relations between the EU and Israel to nosedive. Madrid and Dublin are pushing for the EU to take measures against Israel for its continued attacks on southern Gaza’s city of Rafah.
The decision by Spain, Ireland and Norway comes more than seven months into an assault waged by Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in which militants stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostage. Israel’s air and land attacks have since killed 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.


World Bank approves $700m to address Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh

World Bank approves $700m to address Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh
Updated 37 min 11 sec ago
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World Bank approves $700m to address Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh

World Bank approves $700m to address Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh
  • Humanitarian conditions in Rohingya camps deteriorate as international aid drops
  • Maintaining 1m refugees puts stress on the Bangladeshi economy

DHAKA: The World Bank approved on Wednesday $700 million to help address the protracted humanitarian crisis facing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh as international aid drops.

Bangladesh hosts more than 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims who over decades escaped death and persecution in neighboring Myanmar, especially during a military crackdown in 2017.

Most of them live in Cox’s Bazar district, a coastal region in eastern Bangladesh, which with their arrival became the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Humanitarian conditions in the camps have been deteriorating over the years and Bangladeshi authorities have warned they were reaching crisis levels as global aid for the oppressed stateless minority has sharply declined.

The World Bank funding is “to provide basic services and build disaster and social resilience for both the host communities and displaced Rohingya population.”

The financing will be partly a loan, Hasan Sarwar, additional secretary at the Bangladeshi Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, told Arab News.

“Around half of the amount, which is approved for the well-being of the Rohingyas, will come here as a grant, and the rest of the amount which is for the host community people will be received as a loan,” he said.

He added: “This grant from the World Bank will be helpful for building and repairing infrastructure like roads, drainage systems, solar electricity systems, etc., inside the Rohingya camps. Besides, this fund will be spent on skill development and livelihood projects.

“The majority of the grants will be spent through the UN system for the Rohingyas’ well-being.”

Although Bangladesh is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, its government supports the Rohingya by providing not only land, but also water, electricity, a huge law-enforcement presence, as well as medical and administrative officials.

Sarwar said the government has spent around $2 billion since the beginning of the crisis on maintaining the infrastructure and managing the community of over 1 million people.

He said part of the World Bank funding could be spent on law enforcement, as security in the camps has been deteriorating amid the continuing civil war in Myanmar, which prevents a UN-backed repatriation process from taking off.

“Repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar is the only sustainable solution to this crisis,” Sarwar said. “It has been stalled for months due to the unrestful situation inside Myanmar. We are in touch with the Myanmar military authorities, but the repatriation is almost impossible for now.”


Indian capital records highest temperature of 49.9 Celsius

Indian capital records highest temperature of 49.9 Celsius
Updated 53 min 25 sec ago
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Indian capital records highest temperature of 49.9 Celsius

Indian capital records highest temperature of 49.9 Celsius
  • Indian authorities warn there is very ‘high likelihood of developing heat illness,’ necessitating extreme care of vulnerable
  • India’s West Bengal and Mizoram states are also recovering from a cyclone that hit the country on Sunday, killing 65 people

NEW DELHI: Temperatures in India’s capital have soared to a record-high 49.9 degrees Celsius (121.8 degrees Fahrenheit) as authorities warn of water shortages in the sprawling mega-city.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD), which reported “severe heat-wave conditions,” recorded the temperatures on Tuesday at two Delhi suburb stations in Narela and Mungeshpur.
The weather bureau said the temperatures were nine degrees higher than expected, breaking a previous 2022 record for the city of 49.2C (120.6F).
Forecasters predicted similar temperatures Wednesday for the city, which has an estimated population of more than 30 million people, issuing a red alert health notice.
The alert warns there is a “very high likelihood of developing heat illness and heat stroke in all ages,” with “extreme care needed for vulnerable people.”
India is no stranger to searing summer temperatures but years of scientific research have found climate change is causing heatwaves to become longer, more frequent and more intense.
People on the streets of Delhi said there was little they could do to avoid the heat.
“Everyone wants to stay indoors,” said snack-seller Roop Ram, 57, adding he struggled to sell his savory fritters.
Ram, who lives with his wife and two sons in a cramped house, said they had a small fan but that did little to cool them down.
They were counting down until the rainy season arrives in July.
“I am not sure what else we can do to cope,” he said. “We are just waiting for the monsoon.”
Rani, 60, who uses only one name, travels by bus for two hours each morning to sell jewelry to tourists at a makeshift street stall.
“It is definitely hotter, but there is nothing we can do about it,” she said, gulping water from a bottle she brought from home. “I try to refill the bottle from anyone around.”
Heat remains high even at night, the IMD said, noting that the temperatures were “likely to reduce gradually” from Thursday.
New Delhi authorities have also warned of the risk of water shortages as the capital swelters in headache-inducing heat, cutting supplies to some areas.
Delhi Water Minister Atishi Marlena has called for “collective responsibility” to stop wasteful water use, the Times of India newspaper reported Wednesday.
“To address the problem of water scarcity, we have taken a slew of measures such as reducing water supply from twice a day to once a day in many areas,” Atishi said, according to the Indian Express.
“The water thus saved will be rationed and supplied to the water-deficient areas where supply lasts only 15 to 20 minutes a day,” she said.
The highly polluted Yamuna river, a tributary of the Ganges, runs through Delhi but its flow is hugely reduced during the summer months.
Delhi relies almost entirely on water from neighboring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, both farming states with huge water demands.
Many blame the soaring temperatures on scorching winds from Rajasthan state, where temperatures on Tuesday were the hottest in the country at 50.5C (122.9F).
Rajasthan’s desert region of Phalodi holds India’s all-time heat record of 51C (123.8F) hit in 2016.
Neighboring Pakistan has also sweltered through a week-long heatwave, which peaked at 53C (127.4F) on Sunday in Mohenjo Daro in rural Sindh province.
Pakistan’s meteorological office said it expected temperatures to subside from Wednesday but warned further heatwaves were coming in June.
It comes as Pakistan hashes out a new deal with the International Monetary Fund that is believed to focus heavily on an energy supply crisis that has left parts of the country facing up to 15 hours of load-shedding a day.
At the same time, India’s West Bengal state and the northeastern state of Mizoram are recovering after a cyclone hit India and Bangladesh on Sunday, killing at least 65 people.
Bangladesh’s Meteorological Department said the cyclone was “one of longest in the country’s history,” blaming climate change for the shift.


China’s Xi meets Egyptian leader El-Sisi in Beijing

China’s Xi meets Egyptian leader El-Sisi in Beijing
Updated 8 sec ago
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China’s Xi meets Egyptian leader El-Sisi in Beijing

China’s Xi meets Egyptian leader El-Sisi in Beijing
  • Top of the agenda will be the war between Israel and Hamas, which Xi has called for an “international peace conference” to resolve
  • Several Arab leaders are this week visiting Beijing, which is seeking to present a “common voice” on the conflict between Israel and Hamas

Beijing: President Xi Jinping welcomed Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to Beijing on Wednesday, as the Chinese capital hosts a number of Arab dignitaries for a forum it hopes will deepen ties with the region.
Several Arab leaders are this week visiting Beijing, which is seeking to present a “common voice” on the conflict between Israel and Hamas and improve cooperation.
Xi met El-Sisi in a grand ceremony outside Beijing’s Great Hall of People on Wednesday afternoon, state media footage showed, with the national anthems of both countries blaring out.
Cairo has said the two will discuss “regional and international issues of common interest.”
“Discussions will tackle ways to forge closer bilateral relations and to unlock broader prospects for cooperation in an array of fields,” the Egyptian presidency said.
Beijing has sought to build closer ties with Arab states in recent years, and last year brokered a detente between Tehran and its long-time foe Saudi Arabia.
It has also historically been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and supportive of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
And Beijing last month hosted rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah for “in-depth and candid talks on promoting intra-Palestinian reconciliation.”
United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as a host of other regional leaders and diplomats, is also among the delegates attending the forum.
Xi is set to deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony on Thursday, Beijing has said, aimed at building “common consensus” between China and Arab states.
Top of the agenda will be the war between Israel and Hamas, which Xi has called for an “international peace conference” to resolve.
China sees a “strategic opportunity to boost its reputation and standing in the Arab world” by framing its efforts to end that conflict against US inaction, Ahmed Aboudouh, an associate fellow with the Chatham House Middle East and North Africa Programme, told AFP.
“This, in turn, serves Beijing’s focus on undermining the US’s credibility and influence in the region,” he said.
“The longer the war, the easier for China to pursue this objective,” he added.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with counterparts from Yemen and Sudan in Beijing, saying he hoped to “strengthen solidarity and coordination” with the Arab world.
He also raised China’s concerns over disruptive attacks on Red Sea shipping by Iran-backed Houthi forces acting in solidarity with Hamas with his Yemeni counterpart Shayea Mohsen Al-Zindani.
“China calls for an end to the harassment of civilian vessels and to ensure the safety of waterways in the Red Sea,” state news agency Xinhua quoted him as saying.


UK police arrest 40 after pro-Palestinian rally

UK police arrest 40 after pro-Palestinian rally
Updated 29 May 2024
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UK police arrest 40 after pro-Palestinian rally

UK police arrest 40 after pro-Palestinian rally
  • Individuals were arrested late on Tuesday for offenses including breaching public order conditions, obstructing roads and assaulting emergency workers

London: UK police on Wednesday said that 40 people had been arrested and three officers injured after protesters refused to disperse following a demonstration in London over Israel’s latest offensive in Gaza.
The British capital’s Metropolitan Police Service said the individuals were arrested late on Tuesday for offenses including breaching public order conditions, obstructing roads and assaulting emergency workers.
It said two officers sustained minor injuries after being assaulted while a third, who was struck by a bottle thrown from within the crowd, suffered a “serious facial injury.”
The Met, as the force is widely known, said an investigation was under way to identify who threw the bottle.
Police had approved plans for the early evening protest — organized by a coalition including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign — outside the gates of Downing Street in central London.
But it imposed conditions including that the rally end by 8:00pm.
Up to 10,000 people attended, and the “vast majority” had left by the required time, but a group of around 500 remained to continue protesting, according to police.
“Officers engaged extensively before making a number of arrests for failing to comply with conditions,” the Met said in a statement.
“As they moved in, some in the crowd resisted physically requiring officers to use force to extract those who had been arrested.”
Further arrests followed later in the evening after the remaining demonstrators launched a breakaway march and were eventually corralled outside a train station, the Met said.
Israel’s renewed military operations in Gaza, concentrated on Rafah, have sparked fresh protests in London and other cities around the world.
The British capital has seen frequent marches protesting Israel’s response to the deadly Hamas attack on its territory on October 7, stoking controversy and political debate over how they should be policed.
They have passed off largely peacefully, but police have made arrests at many for various offenses, including anti-Semitic chanting and banners, promoting a proscribed organization and assaults.