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Myanmar Court rejects appeal of imprisoned Reuters journalists

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A court in Myanmar yesterday decided to uphold the convictions of two Reuters journalists who were sentenced to seven-year prison sentences. The case that has drawn international criticism.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were found guilty last year of violating the Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. They were investigating the massacre of Rohingya men amid a military crackdown on the country’s Muslim minority.

Read the report about their conviction HERE.

The Yangon High Court Judge Aung Naing described the seven-year term as “a suitable punishment”, according to Reuters. The journalists can still appeal their convictions to Myanmar’s Supreme Court.

In defending the Appeal, lawyers had argued that the courts failed to prove the journalists intended to harm national security and wrongly placed the burden of proof on the defendants.

“They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth,” according to Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adlert Adler.

“Reporting is not a crime and until Myanmar rights this terrible wrong the press in Myanmar is not free, and Myanmar’s commitment to rule of law and democracy remains in doubt.”

Myanmar’s military began a brutal campaign in 2017 that forced an estimated 700,000 Rohingya to flee their homes in Rakhine state and cross the border into Bangladesh. Refugees have reported organised rapes, the devastation of entire villages and mass killings.

Myanmar has also been cracking down on its local independent press. Officials have arrested three journalists last October for exposing a financial scheme within the government.

Critics say Myanmar is using colonial-era national security laws, such as the law under which the Reuters journalists were convicted, to shut down investigations.

 

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Myanmar

17 year old Burmese teenager details abuse at the hands of junta

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Stock photo via Wikimedia Commons

A 17 year old Burmese teenager has spoken about her time behind bars at the hands of the Myanmar junta. Ma Chaw says she and her mother were arrested on April 14 in Rangoon as they were walking to a friend’s house from a morning protest. She says they were stopped by the military who jumped out of 2 security trucks and forced them to crouch on the ground face down.

Ma says she was kicked in the groin and was threatened with sexual violence as she spent 6 days in detention along with other women who were allegedly tortured and abused by the police. She says a police officer molested her during an interrogation session in which she pushed his hand away as he threatened her life. She says her mother was slapped 2 times while being interrogated.

Before Ma was released on April 20, she had to sign a document stating the opposite of what was true: that no one tortured her behind bars.

“It’s the opposite of what they have done. It is totally unacceptable and unfair.”

Her mother, however, was not released but transferred to Rangoon’s Insein prison. Ma says she is worried for her mother’s life and that her mother is her only family. Ma says other prisoners were beaten so badly that they could hardly eat or talk. An underground group of ousted lawmakers who oppose the junta has announced it is investigating the “allegations of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in unlawful detention.” In a statement it said:

“These cases are indicative of the wider pattern of sexual and gender-based violence committed by Myanmar’s military that has persisted for years with impunity, particularly against ethnic minority women and girls in armed conflict areas.”

Local monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says more than 3,800 civilians have been arrested and are behind bars since the coup on February 1.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Protests

Burmese military declares martial law in border city after attack

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PHOTO: Military imposed martial law in Mindat city after protests and attacks. (via Bloomberg)

After blaming attacks on a bank and a police station on armed terrorist the Burmese military Junta has declared martial law in the town of Mindat in Chin State. Ethnic rebels have been increasingly battling the military in these border regions – the Chin State borders India – and about 100 people were reported over the last 2 days to have launched an attack on the police station using homemade guns while 50 more people sieged the Myanmar Economic Bank.

State media reported that Burmese military forces quashed the attacks that lead to the martial law declaration without sustaining any casualties, though international news outlets have been unable to confirm any details. Local media aligning against the junta claim that the skirmishes erupted after the Burmese military broke a deal to release 7 recently detained protesters, and claimed that the martial law was invalid. a new militia called the Chinland Defense Force claimed responsibility for the attacks and supported the local media account of events.

That militia say that one of their members was killed in the confrontation and that the military has called in reinforcements. They claim that the junta is losing power in rural areas and can only maintain strongholds in the cities they have military bases in. The martial law declaration comes as the Burmese military continues to try to maintain control amidst daily protests in major cities and violent conflict in border states since their February 1 coup.

The People’s Defence Forces, a group formed last week by the National Unity Government of leaders deposed in the coup, have been working to coalesce support against a common enemy between the protesters in cities and ethnic insurgents who have long fought the oppressive military. These insurgents have assassinated junta leaders and clashed frequently with Burmese military security forces in attacks like the one leading to martial law today.

Still, Pro-democracy demonstrators marched through Yangon today, with videos surfacing on social media showing their defiant chant, “we believe that we gonna win, we must win, we must win”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Australian government provides grant to cover 1 million vaccine doses in Laos

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Photo via Facebook/Australia in Laos

To help the mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in Laos, the Australian government is providing a 15.2 million AUD grant to cover around 1 million vaccine doses in the Southeast Asian country. The grant also covers training for healthcare workers on how to safely administer the vaccines.

Laos reported a spike in cases over the past month, after a year of containing the spread of the virus with active cases remaining under 20. Yesterday, Laos reported 1,088 active cases, a sharp increase after months of just a few active Covid-19 cases at a time.

Australian Ambassador to Laos, Paul Kelly, says the Australian government is “pleased to be able to support the people of Laos in a time of need.”

“Ensuring Laos has access to safe and effective vaccines is a major and immediate priority for the Australian government… We recognise that no one is safe until everyone is safe. Our support will vaccinate hundreds of thousands of Lao people as well as support long term health security. Australia has been a long-standing and trusted partner for Laos over the past 69 years.”

Laos Vice President Pany Yathotou says the grant from Australia is a significant contribution to ensures the efficient rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in Laos. Most of the funds will be used to purchase the doses and to help Laos distribute and administer vaccines. It will also support a public information campaign, spreading facts about vaccines and also translating the information to ethnic languages.

The Australian Embassy says the country also contributed to the multilateral COVAX facility which covers free vaccinations for more than 20% of the Laos population.

Australian government provides grant to cover 1 million vaccine doses in Laos | News by Thaiger

Active Covid-19 cases in Laos as of 12 May 2021, according to Worldometers.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

 

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