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US, Australia take hawkish tone towards China in talks

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US, Australia take hawkish tone towards China in talks | Thaiger

Australian and US foreign and defence ministers have taken a hawkish tone against China in the latest round of annual talks between the two countries. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set the tone for the talks saying to the the Australian ministers that the United States “knows the threats that you and the rest of the free world face”.

“And the United States stands with you in our unbreakable alliance.”

Just last Thursday the Australian government rejected to Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea in a formal declaration to the UN, siding with Washington in the escalating territorial dispute in the seas loosely surrounded by Vietnam, southern China and The Philippines.

Australia said that there was “no legal basis” to Chinese claims in the South China Sea, including those related to the establishment of artificial islands on small reefs.

“Australia rejects China’s claim to ‘historic rights’ or ‘rights and interests’ as established in the long course of historical practice in the South China Sea.”

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper thanked the Australian government for its participation last week in exercises with a US carrier strike group, and a Japanese destroyer patrolling the Philippine Sea. Australia sent 5 warships as the 3 countries paraded in waters adjoining the South China Sea as a diplomatic protest against China’s ongoing maritime claims.

“These exercises not only bolster interoperability, but also send a clear signal to Beijing that we will fly, we will sail and we will operate wherever international law allows and defend the rights of our allies.”

After the talks the US and Australia announced on Tuesday that they will continue to expand military cooperation as tensions soar with China, presenting a common front between the allies. Both leaders – US President Donald Trump and Australian PM Scott Morrison – have ratcheted up their strong commentary opposing China’s increasing presence in the South China Sea as well as its more interventionist role in Hong Kong.

The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo hailed PM Morrison for refusing to “bow to Beijing’s wishes” after China recently retaliated by discouraging travel and trade with Australia and has hit back at accusations of waging cyberattacks against Australian government sites.

Last year Australia decided it would not serve as a base for US intermediate-range missiles, seen as a way to more directly target China. At the time Australian defence officials said it was “one step too far”.

But, in a joint statement, the countries’ ministers said they discussed expanding operations in the Northern Territory capital of Darwin, where US Marines have been serving since 2012 under an initiative of former US president Barack Obama. Darwin is Australia’s northern-most city.

Despite Australia’s long term reliance on trade, and friendly relations with China, Australian PM Scott Morrison’s right-leaning government has politically pivoted towards its long-time ally, the United States, in recent years. His government has also backed President Trump’s calls for an international investigation into “the origins of Covid-19 and spoken out in rejecting Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

For its part, China, along with President Trump’s domestic critics, accuse the US president, who is trailing in polls ahead of November’s presidential elections, of seizing on ‘China’ as an issue to divert from criticism of his own handling of the pandemic in the US. The US has suffered the highest case numbers and death toll of any country.

But the presumptive Democratic presidential opponent, Joe Biden is also vowing a tough approach on China on issues from trade to its incarceration of Uighur Muslims, to recent political clampdowns in its semi-autonomous ‘special economic zone’ of Hong Kong.

US, Australia take hawkish tone towards China in talks | News by Thaiger

SOURCES: Reuters | AP

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Myanmar could descend into a civil war comparable to Syria- UN

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Myanmar could descend into a civil war comparable to Syria- UN | Thaiger
Stock photo of UN via Jurist.org

A top UN official is warning that Myanmar could follow that of Syria in terms of descending into a bloody civil war, unless the violence subsides. Michele Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights is calling on all countries with influence to apply concerted pressure on the ruling military junta to end its campaign of repression and the slaughtering of its people. Bachelet says neighbouring countries are especially being called upon.

She says the military has committed, what amounts to, crimes against humanity, and the human rights violations must be stopped. Ravina Shamdasani, who is Bachelet’s spokeswoman, says the high commissioner feels that a continuation of such crimes could lead to a civil war.

“The high commissioner states that there are clear echoes of Syria in 2011. There too, we saw peaceful protests met with unnecessary and clearly disproportionate force. The state’s brutal, persistent repression of its own people led to some individuals taking up arms, followed by a downward and rapidly expanding spiral of violence all across the country.”

Shamdasani said the country’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, attacked civilians last weekend with rocket-propelled grenades and mortar fire, killing at least 82 people. She said credible reports also indicate that people are fighting back by using makeshift or primitive weapons with clashes between the military and ethnic armed groups in Kayn, Shan, and Kachin states are picking up steam.

“As arrests continue, with at least 3,080 people currently detained, there are reports that 23 people have been sentenced to death following secret trials — including 4 protesters and 19 others who were accused of political and criminal offenses. The mass arrests have forced hundreds of people to go into hiding.”

She added that the country’s economic, education and health infrastructure are at the point of collapse, making the situation untenable. She said nations must cut off the supply of arms and finances to the military leadership that allow it to kill and seriously violate its people’s human rights.

Myanmar’s military took over in a coup on February 1, arresting the democratically-elected leader of National League for Democracy and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Since then, other top leaders have been arrested over what the junta says is fraudulent election results, without giving any evidence.

Suu Kyi has not been seen since her arrest, and is now facing even more charges that could see her barred from political office or worse. The junta military has been accused of killing innocent civilians and peaceful protesters since the coup began, censoring the media, and shutting down the internet.

The US, UK, and other nations have imposed sanctions against the military, but to no avail. Neighbouring countries, including Thailand, are expecting an influx of refugees to cross the border, but conflicting reports point towards Thailand turning away such asylum-seekers.

SOURCE: VOA News

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Independent candidates polling well in Bangkok governor race

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Independent candidates polling well in Bangkok governor race | Thaiger
PHOTO: Chadchard Sittipunt currently leads in Bangkok governor polls

Independent candidates are trending in polls for the Bangkok governor election later this year, with undecided voters leaning independent. Undecided voters have grown to nearly 1/3 of all voters up from just under 30% in March, possibly due to voters being tired of political polarisation. The exact date of the election has not been announced yet but independent candidates have jumped into the race before the major party candidates. Three have announced so far, former senator and rights activist Rossana Tositrakul, former national Police Chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda and former transport minister Chadchart Sittipunt. Though many are still undecided, Chadchart seems to be the early favourite pulling 25% support in a recent poll while Chakthip earned just 12%, a lead that seems to be widening.

Bangkok voters traditionally did not vote independent, but rather along party lines, though they are known to decide last minute basing their choice on immediate factors. Surveys show that voters tend to make their decisions less than 5 days before elections normally. In the last election for governor in 2013, Sukhumbhand Paribatra performed badly in polls and yet won in the last minute vote after accusations that his opponent had plans to nominate red-shirt leaders.

Political analysts were not shocked with Chadchart’s dominance in the polls, but are also unconvinced that he can maintain his lead when the major party candidates enter the Bangkok governor election cycle. They believe that candidates from Kao Klai Party or the Progressive Movement, both splinters from the Future Forward Party, would offer formidable opposition. The Future Forward Party sprung to the spotlight in 2019, gaining 6 million votes in the country, 800,000 of which were from Bangkok, making it the third-largest party. There is a rumour that Parit “Itim” Wacharasindhu, the co-founder of the Progressive Constitution Group, might run under one of these two parties. His pro-democracy leanings may pull a lot of voters away from Chadchart.

The poll in March showed that 66% of Bangkok voters favoured independent candidates now and are leaning away from major party affiliations. The results are thought to indicate Bangkok residents’ frustration in extremely polarized political parties. Elections began 4 months ago in provinces, aside from Bangkok and Pattaya, considered special administrative zones.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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London’s anti-coup Burmese Ambassador locked from embassy

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London’s anti-coup Burmese Ambassador locked from embassy | Thaiger
Kyaw Zwar Minn, Burmese Ambassador to the United Kingdom in 2013.

In London, the Myanmar Ambassador has been tossed from his own embassy, locked out because of his stance against the military junta in his country. The lockout occurred as a result of Kyaw Zwar Minn’s breaking ranks with the Burmese military leadership and calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader who was jailed when the military coup overran the country. Military leaders inside the London embassy are believed to be responsible for locking Ambassador Kyaw out of the embassy. The Burmese Ambassador had previously drawn praise by British foreign minister Dominic Raab for his courage in standing against the military coup, calling for the release of Suu Kyi and the elected President Win Myint and standing for pro-democracy causes. The United Kingdom have sanctioned the Burmese military and some of its business interests in response to the military coup and the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, calling for a return of democratic rule to the conflicted country.

Speaking outside the embassy where police were waiting and guarding watchfully, Kyaw spoke with protesters saying he’d been locked out of his own building and that he was waiting to go back inside. He says he has been in touch with Britain’s foreign ministry about the situation, but no action or formal statements have been made yet. He referred to it as a coup in the middle of London, referring to the fact that his building was now occupied by military leaders inside. It is believed that deputy ambassador Chit Win has taken control of the embassy with a military attaché and locked the building to their own diplomat.

The British foreign office has not commented yet on the incident, but the police did release a statement saying they’re aware of the protest going on regarding the Burmese Ambassador and that police are present and watching but have not made any arrests or taken any action at this time.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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