Myanmar: Rising protests against military coup | Daily News

Myanmar: Rising protests against military coup

Police in Myanmar crack down on crowds defying protest ban.
Police in Myanmar crack down on crowds defying protest ban.

Tens of thousands of protesters have come to the streets in Myanmar calling for the release of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with major risks of turning the country back to a long period of military rule, a decade after it began withdrawing from civilian politics.

The police have used tear gas, water cannon and also fired into the air to control the crowds, largely of youth. Three youths have been injured by the firing, one female student very seriously.

As pro-democracy protesters continue to flood the streets of many cities in Myanmar, there are fears of another long period of economic isolation.

Fresh protests took place on Thursday continuing days of demonstrations in major cities and towns inside Myanmar calling for the military to cede power following its February 1 coup.

Demonstrators marched peacefully in Naypyidaw - the capital and military stronghold - as well as Yangon, the largest city and commercial hub.

US President Joe Biden has approved an Executive Order for new sanctions on those responsible for the military coup in Myanmar, as the army detained another key aide to civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The office of Suu Kyi’s political party was searched by the military.

Washington would identify the first round of targets this week and was taking steps to prevent the generals having access to $1bn in Myanmar government funds held in the United States. “We’re also going to impose strong exports controls. We’re freezing US assets that benefit the Burmese government, while maintaining our support for health care, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly,” Biden said at the White House.

The UN Security Council has “emphasized the need for the continued support of the democratic transition” inside the country, after a military junta was installed on Monday ending five years of civilian rule, announcing that it was taking power for the period of a year before fresh elections.

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping

The Security Council has called for the “immediate release of all those detained”, and stresses “the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law”.

The Security Council call also had the support of China and Russia. Western countries have condemned the coup, but analysts believed Myanmar’s new junta would not be as isolated as previous iterations, with China, India, south-east Asian neighbours and Japan unlikely to cut ties given the country’s strategic importance.

India - China troops

India and China have reached an agreement on disengagement at Pangong Tso in Ladakh, India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said in the Rajya Sabha, giving details of a breakthrough after a protracted stand-off and several rounds of talks between military commanders and diplomats.

“Our sustained talks with China have led to agreement on disengagement on the north and south banks of Pangong Lake. After this agreement, India-China will remove forward deployments in a phased, coordinated manner,” the Defence Minister said.

“I want to assure this House that in these talks we have not conceded anything,” he asserted. “The agreement that we have been able to reach with the Chinese side for disengagement in the Pangong lake area envisages that both sides will cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner.”

Mr. Singh said the Chinese would keep their troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8 and the Indian troops would be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3. Similar action would be taken in the South Bank by both sides.

“These are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both North and South Bank area will be removed and the landforms will be restored,” he said.

The minister said both sides had also agreed to a moratorium on military activities in the North Bank, including patrolling, in traditional areas. Patrolling would be resumed when both sides reached an agreement in diplomatic and military talks. Mr. Singh said there were still some outstanding issues on deployment and patrolling at some other points along the LAC in eastern Ladakh and these would be the focus of further discussions.

Mars - UAE and China

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China made record reachings to Mars within two days, this week. UAE made history as the first Arab country to reach Mars.

China that has landed on the moon three times, completed its first successful journey to another planet in our solar system. The UAE Mars mission, named the Hope probe, reached the red planet at 7.42 p.m. Tuesday UAE time. It took 204 days and travelled 480 million kms.

This makes the UAE only the second country to ever successfully enter Mars’ orbit on its first try, despite attempts being made since the 1960s. The only other country to have done so is India. The Hope probe is the first to complete its journey out of three Mars missions aiming to breach the planet’s orbit this year. The US NASA’s Perseverance rover is expected to reach Mars next week.

The Hope probe, a $200 million project called Al-Amal in Arabic, was launched on July 20 from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Station. It will now spend one Martian year — equivalent to 687 days on Earth — studying and gathering data on the red planet’s atmosphere.

That time will enable it to create the first full map of the Martian atmosphere, with the help of three highly specialized instruments developed by the Emirati team: a highly sophisticated camera to photograph Mars and study its lower atmosphere, an ultraviolet spectrometer that will detect the planet’s levels of carbon monoxide and oxygen, and an infrared spectrometer that will measure Martian dust, ice clouds and water.

China’s Tianwen-1, spacecraft launched last July, has begun its orbit of the red planet. China is expected to try to place a lander and a robotic rover on the planet later this year. It would join what could by then be a trio of NASA spacecraft studying the Martian surface.

China’s spacecraft left Earth last summer, taking advantage of a period when Mars and Earth were closest to each other during their journeys around the sun. That allowed a relatively short transit between the two worlds. In arriving at Mars, China far surpassed its last attempt at an interplanetary mission, which failed nearly 10 years ago, although through no fault of the country’s own. That Mars-bound spacecraft, Yinghuo-1, burned up in Earth’s atmosphere when the Russian rocket it was travelling on failed in flight.

Biden- Jinping talks

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held their first telephone call as leaders, with Biden saying a free and open Indo-Pacific was a priority and Xi warning confrontation would be a ‘disaster’ for both nations.

President Biden also underscored his “fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair practices, its crackdown in Hong Kong, reported human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan”, the White House said in a statement.

President Xi told Biden that confrontation would be a “disaster” and the two sides should re-establish the means to avoid misjudgements, according to the Chinese foreign ministry’s account of the call, which took place on Thursday. The Chinese leader also maintained a hardline tone regarding Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, which Xi told Biden were matters of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” that he hopes the United States will approach cautiously.

It was the first call between Xi and a U.S. president since the Chinese leader spoke with former President Donald Trump in March last year. Since then, relations between the two countries have plunged to their worst level in decades, with Trump blaming China for the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the Trump administration, the United States launched a series of actions against China, including a trade war, sanctions against Chinese officials and firms perceived to be security threats and challenging Beijing’s South China Sea territorial claims. Chinese officials have expressed cautious optimism that bilateral relations will improve under Biden and urged Washington to meet Beijing halfway.

Xi congratulated Biden on his election in a message in November, even though Biden had called him a “thug” during the campaign and vowed to lead an international effort to “pressure, isolate and punish China.”

The Biden administration has made it clear that it will continue to maintain pressure on China, however, although it has also pledged to take a more multilateral approach. A senior Biden administration official told reporters ahead of the telephone call that Biden would be “practical, hard-headed, clear-eyed” in dealings with Xi, but wanted to ensure they had the opportunity to have an open line of communication, despite U.S. concerns about Chinese behaviour. The official said the call came at a time when the United States believed it was in a position of strength, after consultations with allies and partners, to lay out core concerns about China’s “aggressive activities and abuses”.

The Biden administration will look in coming months at adding “new targeted restrictions” on certain sensitive technology exports to China in cooperation with allies and partners, the official said. He also said there would be no quick moves to lift the tariffs the former Trump administration left in place against Chinese imports.

UK - India trade

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking a major trade deal with India in what is being described as an “enhanced trade partnership”, after the breakaway from the European Union and the economic issues that follow this break. PM Johnson was to visit India for its Republic Day celebrations last month, but could not come due to the COVID spread in the UK.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visited India in December last year for initial talks, and the International Secretary, Liz Truss has met Indian ministers on the trade talks.

India is already the UK’s sixth largest non-EU trading partner after the US, China, Japan, Switzerland and Norway, and the relationship now supports more than 500,000 UK jobs.

For PM Johnson, signing a trade deal with a large market like India will help him politically sell the benefits of pro-Brexit to voters, ahead of the next general election.

In 2019, bilateral trade in goods and services between the two countries were respectively worth US$15.7 billion and US$18.9 billion (£11.5 billion and £13.8 billion), becoming increasingly important. The UK’s services exports to India have grown at 7% a year between 2013 and 2018, and yet India continues to enjoy a trade surplus with the UK. The UK is also the second largest investor in India.

Meanwhile, India is the second largest investor in the UK after the US. India invested in 120 projects and created 5,429 new jobs in the UK in 2018-19. Indian companies in the UK turn over an excess of £40 billion. Steel to car-making giant Tata is easily the largest, but there are many other major Indian employers.

Late last year there was a declaration of a ten-year road map towards upgrading the nations’ 2004 strategic partnership into a new “comprehensive strategic partnership” involving closer military ties, cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, and measures to counter terrorism and fight climate change.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is invited to attend the G7 summit in Cornwall, south-west England in June, and the changed geopolitical priorities following Brexit provide an incentive for both sides to negotiate a fast-track trade deal. For the UK, this reiterates the government’s “Global Britain'’ strategy of developing stronger ties in Asia Pacific – in line with the country’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) free-trade bloc. Economic and political analysts see a new trade deal with India as an opportunity to foster post-Brexit and post-COVID recovery, giving British businesses greater access to a market of 1.3 billion people, when the prospects for global growth after the pandemic still remain uncertain.

UK companies already have a growing market share in India in several sectors, including food and drinks despite high tariffs and other trade restrictions. Notably, India is the third largest market for Scotch whisky, for instance.

WHO - COVID Wuhan search

An international team of scientists led by the World Health Organisation has said that the coronavirus “most likely” originated in animals before spreading to humans, and dismissed a theory that the disease had been leaked by a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Scientists have been working in Wuhan, where the disease was identified, for the past four weeks as part of their search for clues to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The long-awaited probe comes after months of negotiations between China and WHO about the arrangements of the investigation. The delay raises questions about the reliability of the findings. The investigators have visited hospitals, laboratories and markets, including the Huanan Seafood Market, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control laboratory.

The visit, which has been shrouded in secrecy, was also expected to see researchers speak with early responders as well as some of the first patients. The team completed two weeks of quarantine before beginning to visit local sites.

Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s food safety and animal disease specialist and chairman of the investigation team, told reporters the “most likely” pathway for COVID was a crossover into humans from an intermediary species. This hypothesis will “require more studies and more specific (and) targeted research,” he said.

The initial findings of the investigation did not find evidence of large COVID outbreaks in Wuhan or elsewhere before December 2019. However, researchers did find evidence of wider COVID circulation outside the Huanan Seafood Market that month, Ben Embarek said.

He added it was not yet possible to pinpoint the animal intermediary host for the coronavirus, describing the findings after nearly a month of meetings and site visits as “work in progress.”

“In terms of understanding what happened in the early days of December 2019, did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand? I don’t think so,” Ben Embarek said.

“Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that story? Absolutely,” he said.

It is hoped that information of the earliest known cases of the coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan in late 2019, could help to identify how the outbreak started and prevent future pandemics. The team had reached the conclusion that a lab leak should be regarded as extremely unlikely “on the basis of a serious discussion and very diligent research,” added Liang Wannian, head of the expert COVID panel at China’s National Health Commission.

Trump trial in US Senate

The trial of ex US President Donald Trump is in progress in the US Senate following the Impeachment passed in the House of Representatives, which is the second impeachment trial for Trump within one year, and the first ever to a US President.

Prosecutors took US senators on a wrenching journey inside the horror of the US Capitol insurrection, making a devastating case that Donald Trump had plotted, incited and celebrated a vile crime against the United States.

Their previously unseen video evidence showed a bloodthirsty mob defiling Congress, heroism from overpowered police officers pleading for backup, high-profile lawmakers running for their lives and staffers hiding behind locked doors.

Surveillance footage depicted then-Vice President Mike Pence being hustled away with rioters calling for him to be hanged only yards away. A police officer screamed in pain, trapped between a door and an invading crowd. In a horrific scene, Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt tried to climb through a window smashed by rioters before falling back, shot dead by a Capitol Police officer.

The Senate decided by a majority of 56 to 44 that the Trump trial was constitutional, and made way for the trial to continue, in the absence of Donald Trump who will not attend it.

COVID spread and vaccine

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, there are increased concerns about the variants of the virus that increase the infections, and thus leads to increased deaths. With 106.1 million confirmed cases and 2.3 million deaths at midweek, this remains the global crisis.

Countries are introducing partial lockdowns and many other restrictions to control the spread of the virus, with increased concerns about the UK, South African and Brazil variants.

Several coronavirus vaccines have now been approved for use, either by individual countries or groups of countries, such as the European Union and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Of the 72 countries and territories administering vaccines and publishing rollout data, 51 are high-income nations, 21 are middle-income and none are low-income.

Some countries have secured more vaccine doses than their populations need, while other lower-income countries are relying on a global plan known as Covax, which is seeking to ensure everyone in the world has access to a vaccine.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that despite the growing number of different vaccines, current manufacturing capacity meets only a fraction of global need. “Allowing the majority of the world's population to go unvaccinated will not only perpetuate needless illness and deaths and the pain of ongoing lockdowns, but also spawn new virus mutations as COVID-19 continues to spread among unprotected populations,” he told Foreign Policy magazine.

The US (41 million) and China (31 million) have given the most doses overall, while the UK has administered more than 12 million so far. The EU has admitted to delays in ordering and supplying the vaccines.

But when breaking the figures down by population, looking at doses administered per 100 people in the 10 countries giving the most vaccinations, Israel, the UAE and the UK top the list. Most countries are prioritising the over-60s, health workers and people who are clinically vulnerable.