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Turkish coup bid crumbles as crowds answer call to streets, Erdogan returns

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Turkish coup bid crumbles as crowds answer call to streets, Erdogan returns
Phuket Gazette / Reuters


ISTANBUL/ANKARA: An attempted Turkish military coup appeared to crumble in the early hours of this morning after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets to support him.

Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the coast when the coup was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and was shown on TV appearing among a crowd of supporters outside the airport, which the coup plotters had failed to secure.

The uprising was an “act of treason”, and those responsible would pay a heavy price, he later told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference. Arrests of officers were under way, and it would go higher up the ranks, culminating in the cleansing of the military.

Gunfire and explosions had rocked both the main city Istanbul and capital Ankara in a chaotic night after soldiers took up positions in both cities and ordered state television to read out a statement declaring they had taken power.

But by early this morning, Reuters journalists saw around 30 pro-coup soldiers surrender their weapons after being surrounded by armed police in Istanbul’s central Taksim square.

They were taken away in police vans as a fighter jet repeatedly screamed overhead at low altitude, causing a boom that shook surrounding buildings and shattered windows.

A successful overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would have marked one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming one of the most important U.S. allies while war rages on its border. A failed coup attempt could still destabilize a pivotal country.

Before returning to Istanbul, Erdogan appeared in a video call to the studio of the Turkish sister channel of CNN, where an announcer held up a mobile phone to the camera to show him. He called on Turks to take to the streets to defend his government and said the coup plotters would pay a heavy price.

By the early hours of Saturday morning, lawmakers were still hiding in shelters inside the parliament building in Ankara, which had been fired on by tanks. Smoke rose up from nearby, Reuters witnesses said. An opposition MP told Reuters parliament was hit three times and that people had been wounded.

A Turkish military commander said fighter jets had shot down a helicopter used by the coup plotters over Ankara. State-run Anadolu news agency said 17 police were killed at special forces headquarters there.

As the night wore on, momentum turned against the coup plotters. Crowds defied orders to stay indoors, gathering at major squares in Istanbul and Ankara, waving flags and chanting.

“We have a prime minister, we have a chief of command, we’re not going to leave this country to degenerates,” shouted one man, as groups of government supporters climbed onto a tank near Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

Erdogan and other officials blamed loyalists of a U.S.-based cleric for the coup attempt; his movement denied any part in it.

U.S. SUPPORT

The United States declared its firm backing for Erdogan’s government. Secretary of State John Kerry said he phoned the Turkish foreign minister and emphasized “absolute support for Turkey’s democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions”.

The coup began with warplanes and helicopters roaring over Ankara and troops moving in to seal off the bridges over the Bosphorus that link Europe and Asia in Istanbul.

Reuters reporters saw a helicopter open fire in Ankara. Anadolu said military helicopters had fired on the headquarters of the intelligence agency.

In the first hours of the coup attempt, airports were shut and access to internet social media sites was cut off.

Soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the military that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. The country would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

Shortly afterwards, TRT went off the air. It resumed broadcasting in the early hours of Saturday.

Anadolu said the chief of Turkey’s military staff was among people taken “hostage” in the capital Ankara, but Prime Minister Binali Yildirim later said he was back in control.

“NOT A TINPOT COUP”

Early in the evening the coup appeared strong. A senior EU source monitoring the situation said: “It looks like a relatively well orchestrated coup by a significant body of the military, not just a few colonels. They’ve got control of the airports and are expecting control over the TV station imminently. They control several strategic points in Istanbul.

“Given the scale of the operation, it is difficult to imagine they will stop short of prevailing.”

One European diplomat was dining with the Turkish ambassador to a European capital when guests were interrupted by the pinging of urgent news on their mobile phones.

“This is clearly not some tinpot little coup. The Turkish ambassador was clearly shocked and is taking it very seriously,” the diplomat told Reuters as the dinner party broke up. “However it looks in the morning, this will have massive implications for Turkey. This has not come out of nowhere.”

Turkey, a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance, is one of the most important allies of the United States in the fight against Islamic State, which seized swathes of neighboring Iraq and Syria.

The Pentagon said there was no impact on operations against Islamic State from the U.S. air base at Incirlik in Turkey.

Turkey is also one of the main backers of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war, host to 2.7 million Syrian refugees and launchpad last year for the biggest influx of migrants to Europe since World War Two.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in Syria’s capital Damascus after the army claimed to have toppled Erdogan. People took the streets to celebrate there and in other government-held cities.

Turkey has been at war with Kurdish separatists, and has suffered numerous bombing and shooting attacks this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Istanbul’s main airport that killed more than 40 people.

Turkish officials blamed the attempted coup on followers of Fethullah Gulen, an influential cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States who once supported Erdogan but became a nemesis. The pro-Gulen Alliance for Shared Values said it condemned any military intervention in domestic politics.

After serving as prime minister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers.

Turkey has enjoyed an economic boom during his time in office and has dramatically expanded its influence across the region. But opponents say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian.

His AK Party, with roots in Islamism, has long had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state that was founded on secularist principles after World War One. The military has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism, but has not seized power directly since 1980.

Prime Minister Yildirim said a group within Turkey’s military had attempted to overthrow the government and security forces have been called in to “do what is necessary”.

“Some people illegally undertook an illegal action outside of the chain of command,” Yildirim said in comments broadcast by private channel NTV.

“The government elected by the people remains in charge. This government will only go when the people say so.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Politics

Former Thai PM Thaksin makes appearance on popular Clubhouse app

Maya Taylor

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Former Thai PM Thaksin makes appearance on popular Clubhouse app | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Frank Franklin/AP

Ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been living in exile for over 10 years, has made an appearance on the new “Clubhouse” social media app, in which he discussed his battle with Covid-19. Thaksin’s appearance was confirmed by the CARE movement, as he joined a forum hosted by the organisation on Monday night.

Nation Thailand reports that also taking part in the forum were former ministers from Thaksin’s cabinet, including Surapong Suebwonglee, Prommin Lertsuridej, Chaturon Chaisang and Pichai Naripthaphan. According to a Facebook post from CARE, Thaksin appeared under the name he has been using while living abroad.

“Thaksin would appear under the name ‘Tony Woodsame’, as Tony is the name he had used while studying abroad.”

During his appearance, Thaksin confirmed he had contracted the Covid-19 virus but has since recovered. He also brought up the “30 baht cure all” policy of his former party, Thai Rak Thai, designed to deal with Thailand’s healthcare problems. Asked about the current political turmoil in Thailand and how he would deal with protesters if he was still in power, he emphasised the importance of communicating with Thailand’s youth.

“Political rallies in Thailand are caused by young people starting to become uncertain about their future. The government must communicate with these young protesters based on reason, as well as find ways to make Thailand open and free.”

The exclusive, invitation-only Clubhouse app is gaining popularity in Thailand and around the world, helped by the approval of prominent figures like Elon Musk, Kanye West, and Jared Leto. Renowned Thai academic, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, himself living in exile, is also a Clubhouse member.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Politics

US government urges Myanmar military to stop violence and step down

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US government urges Myanmar military to stop violence and step down | The Thaiger

The US government is urging Myanmar’s military to stop the violence against coup protesters and step down, after the death of a young woman. The recommendation comes as the US, along with Britain, Australia, and Japan, commit to issuing sanctions against the military regime in an effort to support the toppled democracy.

Last November saw a landslide democratic, electoral victory for revered leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. But the military regime labelled its results as fraudulent, without offering any evidence to support its claims. The buildup of tensions in the country led to a coup by the military on February 1, which saw the arrests and detainment of Suu Kyi, along with other major government leaders.

Since then, civilians have taken to the streets in protest, with security forces responding by using increasing force against them. Tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons have been deployed at the protest sites. But a 20 year old woman, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, was shot in the head with a live round of ammunition in the capital last week, leading to her recent death.

The fatality sparked even more protests as some began calling her a martyr on social media, as demonstrators held her photos and a banner created showing the moment she was shot.

“We will regard you as our Martyr. We will bring justice for your loss.”

Now, people have created a memorial on the streets of Yangon for the grocery store worker, adorned with flowers and messages for the deceased woman. Her brother recently state that he was saddened, and had no words for the loss and Poh Poh, her sister, called for action.

“Please all join this protest movement to be more successful. That’s all I want to say.”

Around 550 people have been detained since the coup, with government workers walking off their jobs as part of a civil disobedience campaign. Neighbourhoods have began setting up watch groups to guard against evening arrests, as the nation has seen a overnight internet curfew for 6 days.

Internet monitor Netblocks revealed that Wikipedia, Facebook and other social media services have since been blocked in the country.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Crime

US charges 3 North Korean officials with stealing cryptocurrencies

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US charges 3 North Korean officials with stealing cryptocurrencies | The Thaiger

The US Justice Department is accusing North Korea of stealing crypto and traditional currencies and is charging 3 military intelligence officials with the alleged crime. President Joe Biden is calling the incident a “global campaign of criminality.”

The accusations include hacking and malware operation cyberattacks to steal $1.3 billion US dollars from banks and other institutions. The actions were allegedly under the radar to avoid UN sanctions that have cut off sources of the government’s income.

The US government says the stealing occurred over the last 7 years as the 3 officials allegedly created malicious cryptocurrency applications, hacking into the marketing and trading companies that include bitcoin. The case has been filed in the Los Angeles’ federal court and is built on the 2018 charges against 1 of the 3 officials, named Park Jin Hyok.

Hyok was accused in 2018, before the other defendants were identified, for allegedly stealing $6.1 million from Pakistan’s Bank Islami ATM machines after gaining access to its computer systems. Now the US government says all 3 worked together in that instance.

Hyok was also charged in 2014 with hacking Sony pictures, creating the WannaCry ransomware as well as the theft of $81 million US dollars from Bangladesh’s central bank.

Jon Chang Hyok and Kim Il join Park Jin Hyok in being accused of working together in the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is known within the cybersecurity community as the Lazarus Group, or APT 38.

The 3 allegedly operated out of North Korea, Russia and China to hack computers that allowed them to empty victims’ crypto wallets. They also allegedly robbed digital currency exchanges in Slovenia and Indonesia and extorted a New York exchange of $11.8 million US dollars.

Kim Il has also been accused of developing the blockchain-based digital currency-like “Marine Chain Token” which was used as a fake instrument for investors to buy shares of shipping vessels. He is accused of not telling potential investors that it was designed to hide ship ownership identities to help North Korea avoid sanctions.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers says North Korea used keyboards rather than guns to steal cryptocurrency over bags of cash.

“Nation-state indictments like this are an important step in identifying the problem, calling it out in a legally rigorous format, and building international consensus.”

The case is the first open action taken against North Korea by the Biden administration, amid ongoing tensions over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that could be dangerous to the United States and allies.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the administration is “reviewing policy toward the country.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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