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Questions over reliable death toll in the Laos floods – foreign media banned

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Questions over reliable death toll in the Laos floods – foreign media banned | The Thaiger
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PHOTO: Thai PBS

In a sign of the times where social media is simply instantaneous, but often unreliable, the Lao PM Thongloun Sisoulith is warning members of the public to be aware and conscious about news and reports on the deadly flooding in southern Attapeu province. But some international news agencies are claiming that the Laos government is trying to downplay the death toll in a face-saving PR exercise (more about that later).

The question on verifiable numbers arises after the Laos government banned most foreign media from the disaster zone. International aid organisations are also questioning the official toll figures being released by the Laos government.

Meanwhile the Laos PM is asking people to follow news from Lao mainstream media outlets, which acquire information first-hand from officials authorised to provide the information. The premier issued the warning in a press briefing in Vientiane after returning from the flooding in the province.
The warnings follow misinformation and fake news that were posted online via social media and then reported and rebroadcast by some foreign mainstream media outlets.

Photos of severe disasters which happened elsewhere and some time ago were also posted on social media pages as if they were pictures of Attapeu’s flooding.

Since the flash flood, caused by the fracture of Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower reservoir’s saddle dam D, lashed villages in Sanamxay district on Monday night (July 23), reports carried by social media and most foreign mainstream media have exaggerated the death toll and the number of missing victims.

Questions over reliable death toll in the Laos floods - foreign media banned | News by The Thaiger

“So, members of the public should analyse content critically and assess its veracity.”

In the press briefing, the Laos PM expressed heartfelt gratitude to all sectors for extending sincere assistance to the rescue operation and relief effort. On behalf of the Lao government and people, he extended heartfelt thanks to governments and peoples of friendly countries and international organisations for sharing sympathy, expressing the intention to and extending assistance and support for the search, rescue and relief effort.

“They have given physical and spiritual support to the victims to enable them to return to normal lives as soon as possible,” PM Thongloun said.

He called on Lao compatriots within the country and living abroad to extend assistance and support to help address and overcome the disaster.

“I am confident that the incident [disaster] will be overcome. The situation will return to normalcy soon,” he said.

Meanwhile the BBC has questioned the ‘official’ figures issued by the Laos government.

Government statistics say 27 people have been killed and 131 people are missing – but aid agencies believe the country may be downplaying the scale of the disaster and the final death toll may be considerably higher.

Local residents told the BBC that they believed as many as 300 people may have lost their lives.

Meanwhile up to 3,000 people are reportedly still stranded, their rooftops now islands in the murky floodwater.

Few details of the rescue operation are being released by the Laotian authorities – but a BBC team managed to gain brief access to the site and survivors, despite a ban on foreign media.

Read the rest of the BBC report HERE.

Construction of the $1.2bn Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy power project – a network of two main dams and five subsidiary dams – involved Laotian, Thai and South Korean firms.

The dam was 90% complete and had been set to start operating commercially next year. The Laos government is staking a lot of its economic future by providing reliable electricity for the region and has dubbed the ‘battery of Asia. Many of the hydroelectric schemes are privately funded by South Korean companies.

 

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Myanmar

Facebook shuts down Burmese military news page, accuses it of inciting violence

Maya Taylor

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Facebook shuts down Burmese military news page, accuses it of inciting violence | The Thaiger
PHOTO: AP

The “True News” social media page operated by the Burmese military has been shut down by Facebook, with the tech giant accusing it of inciting violence. Thai PBS World reports that the page was shut down yesterday as the authorities in Myanmar ramp up the violent response to citizens protesting the forced removal of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The authorities continue to crack down on those protesting the coup and calling for the military to surrender power.

Suu Kyi is currently in custody alongside several members of her administration since February 1, when the army seized power in a bloodless coup. For its part, the military is insisting the power grab was lawful, claiming on its now-defunct Facebook page that Suu Kyi’s victory in November was the result of a fraudulent election. There have been a number of large protests in major Burmese cities since Suu Kyi’s removal. On Saturday, 2 people were killed when the army fired at protesters in the city of Mandalay. There have also been reports of nightly internet blackouts and authorities have banned several social media platforms.

For its part, Facebook says it has removed the Tatmadaw True News Information Team page for “repeated violations of our Community Standards prohibiting incitement of violence and coordinating harm”. It has removed hundreds of similar Burmese army pages in recent years, including content targeting the Rohingya Muslim population. Around 750,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims are living as refugees in Bangladesh after fleeing a 2017 military crackdown.

A year later, Facebook banned the Burmese junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, along with other senior army figures after a United Nations recommendation that they be charged with genocide following the massacre of countless Rohingya Muslims. Facebook has also banned the pages of insurgent groups fighting the Burmese military, as well as those run by Buddhist monks accused of provoking anti-Muslim violence.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Border officials on alert for Burmese coup protesters fleeing military crackdown

Maya Taylor

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Border officials on alert for Burmese coup protesters fleeing military crackdown | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

Border police have increased patrols in the northern province of Chiang Rai amid concerns that Burmese protesters may try to cross into the Mae Sai district. This follows a military crackdown in the Burmese border town of Tachilek as the army tries to quell anti-coup rallies.

According to a Bangkok Post report, Sompong Chingduang from Thailand’s Immigration Bureau says the authorities in Mae Sai continue to monitor the situation in Tachilek. On Saturday, 2 protesters were killed in the Burmese city of Mandalay after officials opened fire on demonstrators protesting the February 1 coup.

The following day, thousands rallied in the town of Myawaddy, on the border of the Mae Sot district in the Thai province of Tak, while another protest was held in Tachilek. The Tachilek protest led to the border between Thailand and Myanmar being shut for 2 hours. It’s understood the largest rallies yet are being planned for today.

Meanwhile, Sompong has issued a warning that nobody fleeing the military crackdown in Myanmar will be granted entry to Thailand but will instead be turned away from the border. He says to do otherwise would pose too much of a health risk for Thailand, given the Covid-19 situation.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Protests

First death from Myanmar coup protests reported

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First death from Myanmar coup protests reported | The Thaiger

The first death from protestsover Myanmar’s recent couphas been reported after a young woman succumbed to her injuries after being shot in the head last week as police dispersed a crowd.

20 year old Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, had been on life support since being taken to a hospital on February 9, after she was hit, by what doctors say, was a live bullet at a protest in the capital of Nay Pyi Taw. Her brother, Ye Htut Aung, confirmed her death over the phone.

“I feel really sad and have nothing to say.”

News of her death has prompted more protests today, with police arresting 50 people in the northern town of Myitkyina, after halting a crowd who carried banners of detained government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose NLD party won democratic elections by a landslide last November. The election results were contested by the military who said they were fraudulent without offering any evidence of its claims, and instead, staged a coup on February 1.

As well as the protests, a civil disobedience campaign has halted government business, bringing international pressure against the military. Britain and Canada announced new sanctions yesterday with Japan agreeing with India, the United States and Australia on the need for democracy to be restored quickly. But the junta has not reacted to the new sanctions with history showing such actions by the international community are largely ignored. Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was already under sanctions from Western countries following the 2017 assaults on the Muslim Rohingya minority.

Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says 521 people had been detained as of yesterday with 44 of them being released. Suu Kyi faces a charge of violating a Natural Disaster Management Law as well as charges of illegally importing 6 walkie talkie radios. Protesters are calling for her release along with hundreds of other detainees and a restoration of the election results.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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