Myanmar will start drafting 5,000 people a month into the military soon. Some think of fleeing

Myanmar will start drafting 5,000 people a month into the military soon. Some think of fleeing
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Myanmar junta military soldiers parade during a ceremony to mark the 77th anniversary of the country's Union Day in Naypyidaw on February 12, 2024. (AFP)
Myanmar will start drafting 5,000 people a month into the military soon. Some think of fleeing
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This photo taken on Feb. 4, 2024 shows a building destroyed and a damaged statue of Buddha (L) following fighting between Myanmar's military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Nam Hpat Kar, Kutkai township in Myanmar's northern Shan State.(AFP)
Myanmar will start drafting 5,000 people a month into the military soon. Some think of fleeing
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Myanmar junta military soldiers parade during a ceremony to mark the 77th anniversary of the country's Union Day in Naypyidaw on February 12, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 15 February 2024
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Myanmar will start drafting 5,000 people a month into the military soon. Some think of fleeing

Myanmar will start drafting 5,000 people a month into the military soon. Some think of fleeing
  • Junta says it intends to draft 60,000 young men and women yearly for military service under its newly activated conscription law
  • The plan has created fear, anxiety and defiance among young people and their parents, according to postings on social media and private conversations

BANGKOK: Myanmar’s military government on Wednesday said it will draft 60,000 young men and women yearly for military service under its newly activated conscription law, with call-ups beginning after the April festival marking the country’s traditional New Year.

The conscription measure was activated on Saturday by order of the chairman of the ruling military council, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.
His surprise announcement appeared to confirm that the military has been stretched thin by increasing pressure from armed pro-democracy resistance forces that emerged after the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
There are no reliable figures for the size of Myanmar’s military. The CIA World Factbook estimated that last year it had around 150,000-400,000 personnel. The Washington-based US Institute of Peace has suggested that 21,000 service personnel have been lost through casualties, desertions and defections since the military takeover, leaving an effective force of about 150,000.
Under the law, men aged 18 to 35 and women 18 to 27 can be drafted into the armed forces for two years. A higher age limit of 45 for men and 35 for women applies in certain professional categories such as medical doctors and engineers, and their term of service is three years.
The army’s information office said in a statement sent to journalists that 5,000 people each month will be called up and given training. Women will be called up starting with the fifth batch, it said.
Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson for the military government, said in a statement published in the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper that about 14 million people — 6.3 million men and 7.7 million women — of the country’s population of 56 million are eligible for military service.
He told the BBC’s Burmese language service on Tuesday that the initial batch of 5,000 conscripts would be called up soon after the traditional Thingyan New Year celebration in mid-April.
The conscription law’s activation has created fear, anxiety and defiance among young people and their parents, according to postings on social media and private conversations. Some people are considering are leaving the country, fleeing into border areas controlled by ethnic minorities or joining resistance groups.
Evading conscription is punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine. Members of religious orders are exempt, while civil servants and students can be granted temporary deferments.
The military government also activated a Reserve Forces Law that makes army veterans subject to serving five additional years after their resignation or retirement.
Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government, or NUG, the leading political body of the resistance, declared in a statement Tuesday that the public is not required to comply with the conscription law, calling its announcement unlawful. NUG urged people to intensify their participation in the revolution. NUG claims to be the country’s legitimate government.
“It is clear that the military junta, having suffered significant and humiliating defeats across the country, is desperate,” the statement said. “It now seeks to force Myanmar civilians to fight and to serve as human shields in a horrific war of its own making against its own people.”


Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing 6 in Bondi mall

Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing 6 in Bondi mall
Updated 13 April 2024
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Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing 6 in Bondi mall

Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing 6 in Bondi mall
  • Five of the six victims killed were women, while eight people were taken to hospital with stab wounds
  • Australia has some of world’s toughest gun and knife laws, attacks such as the one on Saturday are rare

SYDNEY: An attacker who fatally knifed six people in a Sydney mall was shot dead by police in the beachside suburb of Bondi on Saturday, police said, as hundreds fled the scene.
The assailant was shot by a police officer after he attacked shoppers in the busy Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center, police said in a statement.
Five of the six victims killed were women, while eight people, including a nine-month-old baby, were taken to hospital with stab wounds, New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb told a press conference.
Police at this stage do not believe the attack was terrorism-related, Webb said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there was no indication yet of the man’s motive.
“This was a horrific act of violence, indiscriminately targeting innocent people going about an ordinary Saturday doing their shopping,” he told a press conference.
“Tonight the first thoughts of all Australians are with the victims of these terrible acts.”
Australia has some of the world’s toughest gun and knife laws, and attacks such as the one on Saturday are rare.
’ON THE RAMPAGE’
Emergency services were called to the mall, about three kilometers (1.9 miles) from Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach and popular with children and families, just before 4 p.m. (0600 GMT) after the stabbing reports, police said.
Ayush Singh, 25, was working in a cafe in the mall when he saw the attack and then heard gunshots as police responded.
“I saw the guy with the knife running and chasing people. As he walked just past beside me I heard two or three gunshots and the guy was neutralized,” he told Reuters.
“People around me were terrified. There were some old ladies I helped to get them inside a safe place inside the cafe.”
Two other witnesses told Reuters they heard shots.
“Even 20 minutes after people were rushed out of the mall, I saw SWAT teams of people sweeping the surrounding streets,” one witness said.
The other witness said they saw a woman lying on the ground and took shelter in a jewelry store.
An eyewitness described the police officer shooting the attacker to state broadcaster ABC.
“If she did not shoot him, he would have kept going, he was on the rampage,” said the man, who did not give his name. “She went over and was giving him CPR. He had a nice big blade on him. He looked like he was on a killing spree.”
Several posts on social media showed crowds fleeing the mall and police cars and emergency services rushing to the area.
The mall will remain closed on Sunday while an investigation continues, police said.


Ukraine’s army chief says eastern front under intense Russian assault

Ukraine’s army chief says eastern front under intense Russian assault
Updated 13 April 2024
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Ukraine’s army chief says eastern front under intense Russian assault

Ukraine’s army chief says eastern front under intense Russian assault
  • Syrskyi said he traveled to the area to stabilize the front as Russian assault groups using tanks and armored personnel carriers took advantage of dry, warm weather
  • “This is linked primarily to the significant activization of offensive action by the enemy after the presidential elections in Russia,” he wrote on the Telegram app

KYIV: Ukraine’s army chief said on Saturday the situation on the eastern front had worsened in recent days as Russia has intensified its armored assaults and battles rage for control of a village west of the devastated city of Bakhmut.
The statement by Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi more than two years since Russia’s invasion reflected the grim mood in Kyiv as vital US military aid that Kyiv expected to receive months ago remains stuck in Congress.
Syrskyi said he traveled to the area to stabilize the front as Russian assault groups using tanks and armored personnel carriers took advantage of dry, warm weather that has made it easier to maneuver.
“The situation on the eastern front in recent days has grown considerably more tense. This is linked primarily to the significant activization of offensive action by the enemy after the presidential elections in Russia,” he wrote on the Telegram app.
Since President Vladimir Putin won a new term in a stage-managed mid-March election, Russia has stepped up its attacks on Ukraine and unleashed three massive aerial strikes on its energy system, pounding power plants and substations.
The slowdown in military assistance from the West has left Ukraine more exposed to aerial attacks and heavily outgunned on the battlefield. Kyiv has made increasingly desperate appeals for supplies of air defense missiles in recent weeks.
Moscow’s forces, Syrskyi said, were taking significant losses during their attacks in the east, but were also making tactical gains.
Social media channels reported the fall of Ukraine’s eastern village of Bohdanivka to the west of the occupied city of Bakhmut, prompting Kyiv’s defense ministry to deny them.
But it acknowledged fierce fighting in the area and said Russian assault groups had reached the village’s northern outskirts overnight. “Bohdanivka is now under the control of the defense forces,” it said.
The settlement lies a few kilometers northeast of the town of Chasiv Yar, a Kyiv-controlled stronghold that Russia has been trying to reach after seizing the town of Avdiivka in February to the south.

SEIZE THE STRATEGIC INITIATIVE
Russia’s defense ministry said on Saturday its forces had captured Pervomaiske, a village to the south also located in Ukraine’s Donetsk region where Moscow has focused its offensive operations for months.
Moscow said its troops had improved their tactical position on the front line there after capturing the village 8 kilometers (4.97 miles) southwest of occupied Avdiivka. Kyiv did not immediately comment on the status of Pervomaiske.
Syrskyi said Russian armored assault groups were attacking on the fronts of Lyman as well as Bakhmut and using dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers to try to break through lines on the Pokrovsk front.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has warned Russia may be preparing a big offensive push in late May or in June, inspected domestically-produced weapons at an event outside Kyiv where he presented state awards to Ukrainian arms producers.
At the event, Ukraine’s military drone forces chief said supplies of drones to the front lines this year were already three times higher than the volume supplied over the course of the whole of last year, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.
He also said Ukraine had strike drones capable of flying 1,200 km.
In his statement, Syrskyi said only a technological edge over Russia in sophisticated weapons would allow Kyiv “to seize the strategic initiative” from a better equipped and larger foe.
He called for better training for soldiers and in particular infantry, a clear reference to Ukraine’s manpower challenges.
Ukraine’s parliament passed a bill on Thursday to overhaul how the armed forces draft civilians into the ranks. Zelensky also signed legislation last week lowering the draft age from 27 to 25.


UK’s Prince William, wife Kate, ‘saddened’ by Sydney stabbing

UK’s Prince William, wife Kate, ‘saddened’ by Sydney stabbing
Updated 13 April 2024
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UK’s Prince William, wife Kate, ‘saddened’ by Sydney stabbing

UK’s Prince William, wife Kate, ‘saddened’ by Sydney stabbing
  • “We are shocked and saddened by the terrible events in Sydney earlier today,” the Prince and Princess of Wales said
  • The 41-year-old William’s father King Charles III is the monarch of Australia

LONDON: Britain’s Prince William and his wife Catherine said Saturday they were “shocked and saddened” by a stabbing at a shopping center in Sydney that left six people dead and several others wounded.
The incident occurred at the sprawling Westfield Bondi Junction mall complex, which was packed with thousands of Saturday afternoon shoppers.
Australian police said multiple people were stabbed by the unidentified assailant, who was tracked down and shot dead by a policewoman.
“We are shocked and saddened by the terrible events in Sydney earlier today,” the Prince and Princess of Wales said in a post on the social media site X.


“Our thoughts are with all those affected, including the loved ones of those lost and the heroic emergency responders who risked their own lives to save others. W & C,” they added.
The 41-year-old William’s father King Charles III is the monarch of Australia.
Catherine announced last month that she was undergoing treatment for a cancer discovered following abdominal surgery.
Her shock disclosure came after Charles revealed that he was receiving treatment for an unspecified cancer.
Both have taken a back seat from frontline royal duties as they recuperate.


How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians

How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians
Updated 13 April 2024
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How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians

How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians
  • Iftar and Eid initiatives with Palestinian evacuees from Gaza attracted hundreds of Filipino Muslims and non-Muslims
  • 170 Filipino Palestinians and their closest family members were evacuated from Gaza by the Philippine government

MANILA: For Carmelita Jalova, this year’s Ramadan was the first in decades observed away from Palestine.

After marrying a Palestinian man, Jalova moved from the Philippines to her new family’s home in Gaza and had been living there ever since — until Israel’s deadly invasion forced her to leave.

Jalova was among 170 Filipino Palestinians evacuated from Gaza by the Philippine government in November.

For most of them, Eid celebrations this week were the first time they had spent the main Muslim holiday away from extended families and friends.

“Our first Ramadan here in the Philippines after almost 30 years is so different than what it was in Palestine,” Jalova said, as she remembered the scent of authentic traditional pastry that filled her neighborhood as everyone prepared for Eid, the busy streets of Gaza as people would gather for evening prayers, and “the smiles and happy faces, full of hope that their prayers and fasting will be answered by Allah.”

Following some initial help from the Philippine government, most of the evacuees after their arrival were left to their own devices until civil society groups stepped in.

One such group was the Moro-Palestinian Cooperation Team, which has been helping them with accommodation and finding means of subsistence in the Philippines. Among the initiatives were a pop-up kitchen that introduced Filipinos to traditional Palestinian cuisine during Ramadan, and participation in a halal food bazaar in the Quezon City Memorial Circle on Eid.

For Jalova and her children, it was their first time selling home-cooked food.

“They were so amazed during the bazaar, maybe because we ran out of food in such a very short time,” she said. “It gives them the confidence to go on ... acceptance of what we are dealing (with) right now.”

The culinary initiatives drew hundreds of Filipinos curious to taste iconic dishes from Palestine and meet the refugees in person. Their presence and the support of volunteers was what made this year’s holy month unforgettable for Jalova and her family.

“So thankful that all of them became a part of our Ramadan,” she said. “(It’s) so meaningful and unforgettable.”

While many in Gaza have lost all their relatives as Israeli ground and air attacks have in the past six months killed at least 33,600 people, the evacuated Filipinos and their closest Palestinian family members were grateful they were together and alive.

Mariam Lacson, whose family lives in Little Gaza, sees this Ramadan as a blessing as those in the community can still spend time with their loved ones.

“Maybe Allah has a better plan for us, that’s why we are here in the Philippines,” said Lacson, whose closest Palestinian family found refuge in her native country.

“(We have a) place to stay, food on our table. We feel safe, especially since we have brothers and sisters around us, who are tirelessly there for us.”

One of the people she had in mind was Kamilah Dimaporo Manala-o, the co-founder of the Moro-Palestinian Cooperation Team.

Since the arrival of Gaza evacuees, Manala-o’s family has been involved in building and supporting their community, with interactions especially frequent and close during the holy fasting month.

“We spent our Ramadan with the Filipino Palestinian refugees that came from Gaza. It has been very eventful because of them and also very rewarding,” Manala-o told Arab News.

“During the last night of Ramadan, the Palestinian fathers gave us a heartwarming speech about how thankful they are, that we have become family to them and have made it easier for them. This Ramadan has been the most meaningful one for us. And their words made everything worth it.”

Like Manala-o and her team, other Filipinos, too, have stepped up to help the refugees settle in the Philippines and ensure they enjoy meaningful Eid celebrations.

Filipino Muslim doctor Naheeda Mustofa and her husband Mustofa Mardjuki, who serves as the imam of the Indonesian embassy in Manila, hosted 37 refugees at her clinical facility’s compound at the Islamic Studies, Call and Guidance of the Philippines in Cavite.

While most of the refugees have since moved on to other places, Mustofa remains in touch with them and has employed some at her clinic.

Her family would usually travel to Indonesia to observe Eid Al-Fitr, but this time they decided to stay and host special celebrations that were accompanied by rituals for three new babies that were born to the refugees.

“We were really happy to celebrate the three babies ... we used to go home to south Sumatra to celebrate Eid with my husband’s relatives, but we put this on hold,” she said.

“We are not rich at all, but Allah is making us feel rich with the tasks we are able to take up.”


British Muslim children raise more than $132,000 during Ramadan campaign for displaced families in Gaza, Yemen

British Muslim children raise more than $132,000 during Ramadan campaign for displaced families in Gaza, Yemen
Updated 13 April 2024
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British Muslim children raise more than $132,000 during Ramadan campaign for displaced families in Gaza, Yemen

British Muslim children raise more than $132,000 during Ramadan campaign for displaced families in Gaza, Yemen

LONDON: British Muslim children on a cooking campaign during Ramadan have raised more than £106,000 ($132,000) to help displaced families and children in Palestine and Yemen.

The humanitarian campaign, Ramadan Kids, was first launched four years ago by then 10-year-old Zaavier Khan from East London.

This year, the campaign involved 23 children touring restaurants across the UK capital and learning how to cook an array of dishes.

“It was just a grassroots initiative that started in my kitchen because my son was supposed to embark on his journey of Ramadan, and as a British Muslim, I thought I wanted to really mark this occasion for him,” his mother, Tahreem Noor, told Arab News.

Khan began the campaign on his own during Ramadan 2021 to collect £5,000 for UK food parcels. The following year he raised £10,000 with the help of a handful of children, and last year he began touring restaurants and homes, and cooked with a 15-member squad, raising more than £42,000.

“Every year since then, we’ve done the Ramadan Kids campaign (and) every year the team has grown by a few children,” she added.

This year, the children, aged between four and 13, visited four restaurants. They also filmed their personal cooking at home and uploaded the footage to social media, calling on donors to help fund them via an online donation link.

“They were cooking in their own kitchens and sending us videos for us to upload to promote the concept of Ramadan Kids, but at the same time, fundraising for their own sub links as well,” Noor said.

“This year, we decided to give all the kids that took part in the campaign a Ramadan Kids pack that had lots of Islamic resources,” she added.

The children also received a 30-day journal to learn about the Muslim religion throughout the month.

The pack included religious educational material, Eid decorations and balloons, and customized pens and hoodies, which the children wore at the Ramadan Kids-related events that were held across the month.

As part of the fundraising campaign, the children visited Indian restaurant Saffron Street — the campaign’s regular annual sponsor for the last four years. They “cooked up a storm with chef Nitesh,” Noor said.

Pakistani theme-based cafe Naanstaap, Moroccan steakhouse HS & Co. and US fast food chain The Halal Guys also hosted the group.

Among the dishes the children learned to make this year were marinated chicken, grilled chicken burgers, and naans with cheese and chicken filling.

“It was a really fun hands-on experience for the children, because, obviously, naan is not something that they will usually make at home because it requires a specialist oven,” Noor said.

“At The Halal Guys, they were taught how the gyro is cooked and were shown how to plate up a gyro with hummus and the special Halal Guys rice and sauces,” she added.

The campaign also held its third date decorating workshop, with about 100 children registering to stuff, cover and sprinkle dates with various ingredients and chocolates, according to their taste and liking.

Noor said that she has noticed an increase in children’s fundraising initiatives over the past four years, largely due to media exposure, which has “really heightened the concept of charity among the youth now, which is amazing.”

Khan said that he enjoyed getting to learn about the history of the four restaurants and being taught how to cook in the kitchens.

This year, the Ramadan Kids team was “much bigger” as he became a Ramadan teen, celebrating his 13th birthday.

“I felt like a big brother to 20 children,” he said.

“As Ramadan Kids progresses, I feel like we should involve more kids from all over England, cooking food in their own houses and (holding) much bigger events to influence children to make a change during the holy month of Ramadan,” Khan added.

For the third consecutive year, the campaign partnered with local mental health and bereavement charity Supporting Humanity, which sponsored the costs of fundraising kits and goodie bags “to encourage (religious-based) activity,” said Sumaiya Khoda, a trustee at the charity.

Supporting Humanity also also provided the children with marketing services and a platform to raise money via its Givebrite page, Khoda added.

The charity teamed up with delivery partners on the ground via UK-based charities Save One Life, which supports the most vulnerable people in Gaza, and Help Yateem, to support orphans in Yemen, she said.

As part of its Ramadan fundraising initiatives, Supporting Humanity also held its second annual full-day Ramadan street festival, featuring a number of stall holders and vendors from the Muslim community.

Prominent East London and Essex-based restaurants as well as bakers sponsored a “huge food sale” at the event, Khoda said.

An auction was held on the sidelines of the festival selling off art and items signed by major Premier League football teams, such as Manchester United, Liverpool and West Ham United, as well as England and international cricket players, she added.