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Phuket Gazette World News: U.S. calls for end to humanitarian curbs in Myanmar’s Rakhine

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Phuket Gazette World News: U.S. calls for end to humanitarian curbs in Myanmar’s Rakhine | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

U.S. calls for end to humanitarian curbs in Myanmar’s Rakhine
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The United States called on Myanmar on Wednesday to lift travel restrictions on U.N. and other humanitarian staff to allow them to resume work in the country’s Rakhine State, which has been hit by ethnic and religious violence.

The State Department expressed deep concern about what it termed “a humanitarian crisis” in the state and said violent mob attacks on U.N. and non-governmental organization offices had worsened an already troubling situation.

“We call on the … government to rescind travel restrictions and to facilitate the appropriate travel authorizations to the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations so they may resume services to all vulnerable people in Rakhine State,” it said.

“We further call on the government to take meaningful steps to provide security for all humanitarian workers and residents of Rakhine State.”

Aid agencies were forced to halt operations in Rakhine a week ago when hundreds of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists destroyed staff homes, offices and warehouses as well as boats used to transport supplies. Police fired warning shots to quell the rioters and rescue aid workers.

Humanitarian workers forced to evacuate the area said about

20,000 people in displacement camps around the town of Sittwe would run out of drinking water within 10 days, while food stocks would run out within two weeks, imperilling thousands.

Aid groups have long drawn the ire of some in the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community who accuse them of favouring the mainly Muslim Rohingya, who make up the vast majority of victims of violence that has displaced more than 140,000 since June 2012.

The evacuations came as Myanmar prepared a census – the country’s first since 1983 – which has sparked controversy because it includes questions on religion and ethnicity.

The U.S. statement urged the government to take steps to ensure the census was conducted “in a manner consistent with international standards and the government’s commitment to national reconciliation and the peaceful resolution of ethnic and religious differences.”

Sectarian tensions are especially marked in Rakhine, which is home to a million mostly stateless Rohingya whom the government refers to as Bengali, implying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

While “Rohingya” is not listed on the census form, people have the option to check “other” and ask enumerators to fill in their ethnicity. Some Rakhine Buddhists have threatened to boycott the census out of concern that it could lead to official recognition for the Rohingya.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Population Fund, or UNFPA, which helped organize the census, said it was concerned about the decision not to allow respondents to “self-identify” as Rohingya, calling this “a departure from international census standards, human rights principles and agreed procedures.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

Doctors in India see alarming rise in severe Covid symptoms in younger patients

Maya Taylor

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Doctors in India see alarming rise in severe Covid symptoms in younger patients | Thaiger
PHOTO: Trinity Care Foundation / Flickr

Doctors in India are reporting a worrying rise in the number of young patients being hospitalised with severe Covid-19 symptoms. One medical practitioner in the western state of Gujarat says more young people are developing serious symptoms affecting their lungs, hearts and kidneys, with one hospital opening the state’s first paediatric Covid-19 ward. Other states are reporting a similar increase in severe symptoms among the younger population.

A new wave of infections has struck India, just as the country thought the worst was over and had begun to roll out vaccines. It has now recorded 1 million positive cases in a nation of 1.3 billion people. Despite this, hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the recent Kumbh Mela religious festival, with social distancing and face masks dispensed with. There were similar scenes at election rallies.

According to an AFP report in Thai PBS World, doctors in India are warning of a steep rise in infections among the younger generation. Around 35% of India’s population is under the age of 65 and Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of New Delhi says around 65% of new Covid cases are in patients under the age of 45. Khusrav Bajan, a hospital consultant in Mumbai, has also expressed concern at the number of children being admitted

“We are also seeing children under the ages of 12 and 15 being admitted with symptoms in the second wave. Last year there were practically no children.”

Meanwhile, in India’s own “Silicon Valley”, Bangalore, 58% of Covid-19 infections in early April were in people under the age of 40, a 46% increase compared to last year. Tanu Dogra, a 28 year old book publicist in New Delhi, spent a week in bed after testing positive for the virus last month.

“I haven’t seen such a rise in cases in the last 1 year as I’ve seen in the last 1 week. Everybody on my timeline, on my WhatsApp, is frantically messaging each other because they’ve all tested positive.”

Medical professionals are critical of the slow vaccination rollout in India, with jabs currently limited for those over the age of 45. They are calling for inoculation to be extended to everyone, with many young people saying they feel exposed in the workplace, but have no choice, as the sole earners for their families.

Venkat Ramesh, a specialist in infectious diseases in the southern city of Hyderabad, feels the worst is yet to come.

“When I speak to my colleagues in major metropolitan cities across India, they have numerous calls from patients trying to find a bed. I’m quite afraid for the next month. Given the rapidity of the rise in cases, it is certainly worrying.”

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Business

Bitcoin sheds nearly 15% of its ‘value’ in one day

Tim Newton

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Bitcoin sheds nearly 15% of its ‘value’ in one day | Thaiger

After a meteoric, and probably unsustainable rise and rise over the past 12 months, Bitcoin has suffered a short and sharp mini-crash over the weekend, dropping nearly 15% of its value in less than an hour – a stark warning of the cryptocurrency’s unpredictable volatility.

Bitcoin dropped in ‘value’ from about US$59,000 to US$51,000 before rebounding. Ethereum and Dogecoin also suffered dramatic and sudden losses, before clawing back some of their losses.

This time last year Bitcoin was simmering around US$7,725 after bumping up and down on the spot since 2018. But last year, fuelled by fears of an over-heated US stock market, Covid volatility (whatever that is), government handouts and people-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands, Bitcoin went on a spectacular climb to peak at US$63,588 last Tuesday. But Newton’s first law (the scientist, not me) kicked into action, and with venom.

The price of a single Bitcoin hit a low of US$52,810.06 Saturday after tumbling more than US$7,000 in just one hour, before stabilising.

The drop on Saturday appears to have been triggered by a Twitter rumour that the US Treasury would crack down on money laundering schemes involving cryptocurrencies. Separately, Reuters reported a power blackout in China’s Xinjiang region, where a lot of Bitcoin ‘mining’ happens, was blamed for the steep dive.

That information came from data website CoinMarketCap.

The sudden rise of the cryptocurrencies over the past 12 months has drawn a lot of attention from governments and investors, and RobinHood-esque day trade brigade. Coinbass went public, and therefore ‘mainstream’, last Wednesday.

“All eyes are on Coinbase… as the cryptocurrency exchange prepares for its first day of trading as a public company on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol ‘COIN’.

Coinbase’s market debut is a special event for several reasons. First, it will be Nasdaq’s first major direct listing, an unusual route for companies to go public without the underwriting of an investment bank.” – USA Today

Then Dogecoin had a 500% rally – an ‘asset’ that was created as a joke 8 years ago – on April 16. 500%!!!

The fervent supports of cryptocurrencies, almost a cult, are having their moment and proving, for now, that they can have their day in the financial sun as well. With Coinbase’s successful debut on Wall Street last week, they’ve gone all suit and tie.

Last year’s sharp, and very tempting, rise in Bitcoin values has the wider financial market talking about the bubble in the cryptocurrency market – Bitcoin has more than doubled in value since the start of this year. The market will decide whether that bubble will continue to grow or do what bubbles eventually do.

At the end of 2017 the Bitcoin digital token rose in value to nearly US$20,000 before crashing to almost US$3,000 the following year.

For now, it’s all eyes on the cryptos to see which way they move. The only thing that can be guaranteed is that their valuations will remain volatile and that there will be winners and losers.

Bitcoin sheds nearly 15% of its 'value' in one day | News by Thaiger

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Tourism

World’s most travel-friendly passport list – 2021

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World’s most travel-friendly passport list – 2021 | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Japan tops the list of most travel-friendly passports.

The Henley Passport Index, which rates which passports are the most travel-friendly, has just released the list for 2021, with Japan once again at the top of the list.

But the Index noted that this international travel freedom comparison is mostly theoretical at the moment since Covid-19 continues to limit most travel worldwide. With a Japanese passport, travellers can enter 193 countries without a visa or with a visa-on-arrival. On the other end of the list, an Afghanistan passport can only get into 26 countries. The gap of 167 countries is the widest gap since the Henley Passport Index began tracking this data 15 years ago in 2006.

Singapore kept its second-place this year standing with just one less destination than Japan, followed by Germany and South Korea tied for 3rd place with 191 destinations. The rest of the top 10 are mainly European countries, with the exception of New Zealand and the US as part of the 5-way tie for 7th place with 187 destinations, and Australia and Canada tied for 9th place with 185 destinations.

The US and UK passports took a tumble, once tied for the most travel-friendly passport back in 2014, now losing ground slipping to 7th place. On the other hand, United Arab Emirates strengthened diplomatic ties worldwide and jumped 50 spots this year from 65th all the way to 15th. Over the decade, the climb is even more dramatic, with the Emirates exploding from 67 destinations 10 years ago up 107 destinations to 174 this year. China did well also, climbing 22 places since 2011, up to number 68 on the list.

Thailand’s passport is tied with Saudi Arabia at 66th with 79 destinations available without an advance visa.

The full list of most travel-friendly passports…
1. Japan (193 destinations)
2. Singapore (192)
3. Germany, South Korea (191)
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (190)
5. Austria, Denmark (189)
6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (188)
7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (187)
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway (186)
9. Australia, Canada (185)
10. Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia (183)

Henley and Partners predict that the spread in passport access will mirror Covid-19 affected travel. Rich and mobile regions like the US, UK, EU and UAE are getting access to vaccination, hastening their ability to travel, while poorer and developing economies are experiencing a much slower vaccine roll-out.

Experts from Syracuse University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Migration Policy Centre predict this trend will continue with potentially devastating long-term effects.

Countries that can afford and facilitate vaccination for their citizens quickly will be able to welcome travellers in for tourism and business and be able to travel more themselves. Conversely, countries that can’t afford the storage and distribution of vaccines will be less able to travel or welcome tourism income, widening a global wealth gap.

Remote working and the digital nomad lifestyle has been booming in recent years and with Covid-19 forcing businesses to adapt to telecommuting, the post-pandemic world will see more remote working, and countries falling behind with vaccinations will suffer the long-term loss in tourism dollars too.

SOURCE: CNN

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