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Phuket Gazette World News: Myanmar Rohingya’s uncertain future

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Muslim victims of Myanmar unrest face uncertain future
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: In Myanmar’s central heartlands, justice and security is elusive for thousands of Muslims who lost their homes in a deadly rampage by Buddhist mobs in March.

Many are detained in prison-like camps, unable to return to neighbourhoods and businesses razed in four days of violence in Meikhtila that killed at least 43 people, most of them Muslims, displaced nearly 13,000, and touched off a wave of anti-Muslim unrest fuelled by radical Buddhist monks.

“It’s for their own security,” said a police officer at a camp inside a sports stadium on Meikhtila’s outskirts. The camp holds more than 1,600 people guarded by police with orders not to let them leave, said the officer, who declined to give his name.

A dawn-to-dusk curfew has been in force in Meikhtila since the government declared martial law on March 22. Skeletal walls and piles of rubble are all that remain of Muslim homes and businesses that once covered several blocks at the heart of the town of 100,000 people in the centre of Myanmar.

Trials have begun, but so far only Muslims stand accused, raising fears that courts will further aggravate religious tension by ignoring the Buddhist ringleaders of the violence.

The unrest and the combustible sectarian relations behind it are one of the biggest tests of Myanmar’s reform-minded government, which took power in March 2011 after almost half a century of hardline military rule.

Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, but about 5 percent of its 60 million people are Muslim. They face a growing campaign of anti-Islamic sentiment led by radical Buddhist monks.

An independent commission released a report on Monday saying Myanmar must urgently address the plight of Muslims displaced by sectarian bloodshed in western Rakhine State. It came in response to violence last June and October that killed at least 192 people and left 140,000 homeless, mostly stateless Rohingya Muslims in an area dominated by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

The trial of seven Muslim men accused of murdering a monk, believed to be the first killing in the March unrest in Meikhtila, is expected to conclude this week. Those on trial say they are innocent.

The sound of hammers ring across the city as workers dismantle what is left of the Muslim neighbourhood, stone by stone. There are no signs of Muslims on the streets.

More than 8,000 Muslims are being held in seven official camps that are off-limits to journalists. Thousands more have crowded into unofficial camps in villages near Meikhtila, where police also restrict their movements and prevented them from speaking with Reuters.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said detaining internally displaced people (IDP) is a violation of their rights.

“Locking people up in an IDP camp is not a substitute for providing basic security and ensuring communal peace,” he said. “Even if the authorities’ intent is good, they are clearly going about this the wrong way.”

Spokesmen for the president’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

One of the office’s spokesmen, Ye Htut, has previously stressed that the monks involved in the Meikhtila violence make up only a fraction of the 500,000-strong monkhood. “All perpetrators of violence will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said President Thein Sein in a nationally televised speech on March 28.

Victims in relief camps “live freely and happily”, reported the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper on April 5.

Students attacked

The government has promised to help Muslims rebuild their homes, but reconstruction has yet to begin. Building more than 1,500 houses burned down or damaged would cost $7 million, it said.

Some Buddhist residents said returning Muslims were unwelcome.

“I can’t accept living with them again, because they insulted Buddhism and a monk’s blood was spilled on the ground,” said Than Htun, as he waited outside a prison to see his son who was arrested for looting money from a Muslim home during the rioting.

Such hostility could influence the outcome of the ongoing murder trial, suggested Thein Than Oo, a lawyer for three of the seven Muslims accused, who believed the judge is under pressure from Buddhists to deliver a guilty verdict.

“He has to satisfy the people,” he said.

He pointed to the case of the Muslim owner of a gold shop, his wife and an employee who on April 11 received 14 years without parole for theft and assault. The charges stemmed from an argument with a Buddhist customer, which sparked the first bout of rioting earlier on the day the monk was killed.

The court imposed harsh sentences due to the violence that erupted afterwards, said Thein Than Oo.

Most victims of the rioting were Muslim but no Buddhists have appeared in court. The district judge said they would be tried after the current trial ends.

Neither the judge nor the district police could say if any monks would be charged. Monks led many of the mobs, according to dozens of witnesses interviewed by Reuters.

New York-based Physicians for Human Rights called for an independent investigation into a report of a massacre at an Islamic school on March 21. The group said 32 students and four teachers were missing.

One student, Soe Min Oo, 18, said he fled with other students and teachers when the school was attacked, taking refuge with other Muslims in a nearby compound.

Soe Min Oo said the mob tossed petrol bombs into the compound until police arrived and offered to bring the nearly 200 Muslims to safety. But the few dozen officers could only protect some of them, said Soe Min Oo, pausing frequently to fight back tears.

He said the Buddhist mob hit them and threw stones as they left the compound, and those who came out last were beaten to death. He saw three friends killed.

“I’ve never faced anything like this situation before,” said Soe Min Oo. “I feel very sad.”

Soe Min Oo spoke to Reuters in a tiny Muslim village about half an hour outside Meikhtila where he was staying with family. During the interview, an official who wouldn’t say who he worked for arrived on a motorcycle and demanded names and contact numbers from journalists.

Mandalay chief minister Ye Myint denied a Reuters request to visit official camps in his region, which includes Meikhtila. Immigration and police officers banned access to an unofficial camp in Yindaw, a village about a 45-minute drive from Meikhtila.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Politics

Companies pull out from Trump brand after storming of Capitol incident

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Companies pull out from Trump brand after storming of Capitol incident | The Thaiger

Corporate America is adding its weight in response to the insurgency at the Capitol building on January 6, and are pulling out from any association with the Trump brand after the storming of the capitol incidentwhich economists say will have a profound medium and long-term effect on his business interests. Recently, Signature Bank closed Trump’s personal accounts and the PGA of America stopped plans to hold its 2022 championship at Mr. Trump’s New Jersey golf course.

Such a parting of ways signals the business community’s weariness in being associated with a political figure that has attracted worldwide attention and is indicative of what may happen to the Trump brand. The president’s role in the incident, confirmed by his impeachment by the House this week, has gained criticism from the Business Roundtable to the AFL-CIO labour federation.

Michael D’Antonio, the author of a Trump biography, says the capitol incident has been a game-changer for the support of extreme politics.

“Trump’s name is really an albatross. He is the most disgraced president in history. This is a person who’s synonymous with a mob attacking the US Capitol. I just think this went a step too far.”

Other experts like Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, say Trump’s brand will inevitably suffer long-term.

“Before his term, Trump stood for wealth, success and over-the-top luxury. Now the brand has associations with anti-government views, racism and extremism. This makes the brand fairly toxic.”

Deutsche Bank, to which Trump reportedly owes around $400 million, is also planning to stop engaging in business with him. But the president dismissed any business challenges in an October 15 televised event by saying that the $400 million he owed was “a tiny percentage of my net worth.”

It appears true that some of Trump’s properties have benefitted from his presidency as taxpayer revenue has continuously flowed into his golf courses and clubs where he stays with his family, the secret service and the White House staff.

In fact, CREW estimates that Trump’s properties took in over $100 million from more than 500 visits by the president, according to a report in September 2020. But even that business transaction has received widespread criticism as many say Trump should not have mixed politics with his personal businesses.

D’Antonio predicts that Trump may sell current assets to pay off his Deutsche Bank debt, which means there could be fewer to none Trump hotels, golf courses or towers in the next 10 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Norway adjusts advice after 28 possible vaccine-related deaths of elderly people

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Norway adjusts advice after 28 possible vaccine-related deaths of elderly people | The Thaiger

The deaths of 23 elderly people are being investigated after dying a short time of receiving their first Covid-19 vaccine in Norway. Apart from the 23 deaths, medical officials are also reporting several people falling ill after receiving their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

At this stage there has been no direct correlation between the people’s deaths and inoculation wit the Pfizer vaccine, but medical officials report that 13 out of 23 people who died showed “common side effects of mRNA vaccines” such as “diarrhea, nausea and fever”.

mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies – cdc.gov

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has taken the action of cautioning against vaccinating elderly people above 80 years of age saying “those with a short life span may not benefit much from the jab”.

“For those with the most severe frailty, even relatively mild vaccine side effects can have serious consequences.”

“The agency listed fever and nausea as side effects which may have led to the deaths of some frail patients.”

Earlier this week, the Public Health authority noted that “any side effects of the vaccine will be outweighed by a reduced risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 for elderly, frail people.”

Steinar Madsen, the medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency, says that it may be a coincidence, “but we aren’t sure”.

Pfizer and BioNTech are actively working with the Norwegian authorities to investigate the death.

“The regulator discovered the number of incidents so far is not alarming and in line with expectations.”

But experts are of “the strong opinion” that doctors need to exercise caution in vaccinating people in the wake of the deaths of the 23 elderly people. The Norwegian Medicines Agency also reported that 21 women and 8 men reported side effects. Apart from the 23 deaths, 9 people have reported “serious side effects” without fatal outcomes such as “allergic reactions, strong discomfort and severe fever. Seven people reported less serious side effects such as severe pain at the injection site”.

Norwegian medical staff had administered at least the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccines to approximately 33,000 people as of the end of December.

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World

Covid-19 projected to reduce Americans’ life expectancy – USC/Princeton study

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Covid-19 projected to reduce Americans’ life expectancy – USC/Princeton study | The Thaiger
PHOTO: TRT World

With Covid-19 linked to more than 336,000 deaths in the United States, American’s life expectancy will decline, especially among black and latino people, according to researchers from the University of Southern California and Princeton University.

The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that life expectancy at birth for Americans will shorten by 1.13 years to 77.48 years, while blacks and latinos life expectancy is expected to shorten by more.

For blacks, their life expectancy would shorten by 2.10 years to 72.78 years, and for Latinos, by 3.05 years to 78.77 years. This is said to be the lowest life expectancy estimated since 2003. The disproportionate impact on the 3 groups of populations is believed to relate to social and economic advantages.

The study author Theresa Andrasfay, a postdoctoral fellow at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, says that why the study analyses the number of deaths and how it affects the life expectancy at birth, it also shows the consequences for marginalized groups.

“The Covid-19 pandemic’s disproportionate effect on the life expectancy of Black and Latino Americans likely has to do with their greater exposure through their workplace or extended family contacts, in addition to receiving poorer health care, leading to more infections and worse outcomes.”

The researchers say life expectancy is an important indicator of a population’s health and a tool for examining the impact of COVID-19 on survival.

SOURCE: USA Today | University of South California

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