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World News: Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine region gripped by fear

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Fear, mistrust grip Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine region
Reuters / Gazette Editors
PHUKET: As security forces police the edgy aftermath of sectarian bloodshed in western Myanmar, fearful Buddhists and Muslims are arming themselves with homemade weapons, testing the government’s resolve to prevent a new wave of violence.

Despite government claims that peace has been restored, one Buddhist was shot dead and another wounded today when security forces opened fire in Kyauknimaw on Ramree Island, according to official sources in the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe.

Hand grenades were thrown on Sunday night at two mosques in Karen State in the east of the country, domestic media reported, causing no casualties but raising fears of rising anti-Muslim sentiment elsewhere in Myanmar.

The violence between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas has killed 84 people and wounded 129 since October 21, according to an official toll, in Myanmar’s biggest test since a reformist government replaced a military junta 18 months ago.

“The government has reinforced security forces, both police and military, in all conflict areas,” said Win Myaing, the Rakhine State spokesman. “If both parties follow the law, there won’t be any conflict.”

Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, warned that continuing violence could destabilise the region.

“This has larger and wider implications and we are all potentially affected,” he said in an interview with Reuters in Kuala Lumpur. “I am calling on the world to pay attention to this and to come around and try and resolve the problem.”

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has disappointed supporters by failing to make a clear moral statement on the ongoing abuses. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party has remained silent on the issue since releasing a brief statement on October 24. NLD leaders could not be reached for comment.

The United Nations says more than 97 percent of the 28,108 people displaced are Muslims, mostly stateless Rohingya. Many now live in camps, adding to 75,000 mostly Rohingya displaced in June after a previous explosion of sectarian violence killed at least 80 people.

“Calm down! We’re here to protect you,” shouted an army major at Purein village in northern Rakhine State, where soldiers pleaded with Rohingyas to lay down their swords and machetes.

The Rohingyas said their homes were burned down a week ago by Rakhines armed with slingshots, wooden staves, knives and gasoline.

“Suddenly, we came under attack. Why? I was born here, my father was born here. This is our home,” said Badu, the 50-year-old head of a Rohingya family of nine. “We got along before but there’s nothing left. Where did all the anger come from?”

Rohingya women now sift the ashes for blackened nails for their men to build the bamboo frames of new homes.

Both Rohingyas and Rakhines in Purein village say the attack was initiated by Buddhists outsiders who torched homes one morning and killed three people, including an elderly woman who was unable to flee. An overstretched military was unable to prevent retribution by Rohingyas.

“The Rohingyas came back to attack us and tried to burn down our village, but everyone had fled,” said the Rakhine village leader, Kyaw Maw. “No Rakhines from this village were involved. I don’t know who it was that first attacked them.”

Kyaw Maw said the Rohingya community there had recently doubled, absorbing new settlers since the June violence, and took a larger share of the rice grown on land no one owned. The days of cordial ties, he said, were over.

“Everyone is scared of them now. We didn’t attack them, but they think we are enemies. I want these Kalars to stay well away from us,” he said, referring to Rohingyas by a term considered offensive in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority government regards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and its laws deny them citizenship. Bangladesh has refused to grant Rohingyas refugee status since 1992. The United Nations calls them “virtually friendless in Myanmar”.

“Most Rakhines follow the law,” said state spokesman Win Myaing. “The Muslims don’t. They want to bully the Rakhine in areas where they have more people.”

The violence started in northern Rakhine State and spread south to the town of Kyaukpyu, an area crucial to China’s energy investments in Myanmar, where satellite images show an entire Muslim quarter was razed by fires.

The shooting by security forces at Kyauknimaw today took place near the spot where a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered, allegedly by Muslims, in May, which helped spark the sectarian violence that engulfed the state the following month.

“As you know, when security forces have to control the situation, there can be gunfire,” said spokesman Win Myaing.

If keeping angry Buddhists and Muslims apart is proving hard, then reconciling them seems impossible. Purein is now a village divided. People who a week ago cultivated the same paddy fields now no longer cross a stream that separated the two communities. Few believe authorities will protect them.

“I don’t know why this is happening,” said a Rohingya man who called himself Pathon.

— Reuters / Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs

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Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs | Thaiger
Stock photo of Pfizer vaccine via Flickr

The CEO for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines says it is likely that people will need a 3rd dose of the vaccine and to receive it annually. Albert Bourla, told CNBC, that the booster, or 3rd dose, will be needed less than a year after being fully vaccinated.

“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a 3rd dose, somewhere between 6 and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role. It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus.”

Bourla’s comment echoes that of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO when he stated in February, that people may need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots. Both statements reflect the fact that since the vaccine is new, and testing periods are shorter than most vaccines in the past, researchers are still unclear about how long the vaccine will protect against the virus.

Pfizer says that its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 91% effective at protecting against the coronavirus and more than 95% effective against severe diseases up to 6 months after the 2nd dose. Moderna’s vaccine, which uses technology similar to Pfizer’s, was also shown to be highly effective at 6 months.

Just yesterday, the Biden administration’s Covid response chief science officer, David Kessler, noted that new Covid variants could “challenge” the effectiveness of the shots.

“We don’t know everything at this moment. We are studying the durability of the antibody response. It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge … they make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”

Late last month, the National Institute of Health started testing a new Covid vaccine from Moderna in addition to the one it already has, designed to protect against a problematic variant first found in South Africa. The variant is similar to that of the UK one that has recently made landfall in Thailand.

Recent findings, by The Lancet, however, have stated that the UK variant, known as B117, has a higher reproductive rate than other strains, and it’s more transmissible. However, it refuted earlier reports that the strain is more severe. Meanwhile, Thailand’s health minister is confirming his commitment to making AstraZeneca the nation’s chosen vaccine.

SOURCE: CNBC

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Economy

China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020

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China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020 | Thaiger
PHOTO: China - the second largest economy, and only major economy to grow last year.

China’s economy set a record for growth in Q1, 2021, marking an 18.3% jump in year-on-year figures, the biggest quarterly growth in almost 30 years. China only started publishing growth statistics in 1992, and this drastic increase is the fastest growth recorded since then.

The figures, however impressive, are mainly due to what is called a “low base effect” where the change from a low starting point translates into big percentage statistics. Because of the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Q1 2020 figures were dismal, allowing the big gain over the last year.

Quarter to quarter, the last 3 months saw only a 0.6% growth, but in the last quarter of 2020 China recorded an economic boom of 6.5% according to the Chinese government. Still, the figures are admirable, as China was the only major economy in the world to achieve growth in 2020. Most of the planet struggled to contain global Covid-19 outbreaks, crippling economies across the globe. But China, now the second-largest economy in the world, managed a 2.3% overall expansion. Even Chinese officials called the impressive statistics “better than we had expected.”

China has been growing in terms of imports and exports as well, with exports expanding nearly 31% and imports up 38% by price over last years.

SOURCE: CNN

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine

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Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine | Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Denmark has announced that it is abandoning the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first European country to do so, amid concerns about very rare but serious blood clots. The rollout of the vaccine has run into problems in several countries, with its use either temporarily suspended or restricted to older age groups.

When concerns first arose over the vaccine’s rare side-effects, Denmark was the first country in Europe to suspend its use. In Thailand, use of the vaccine was suspended last month, before officials judged it safe to proceed, with Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul going on to confirm it would become the Kingdom’s primary Covid-19 vaccine.

Both the European drugs regulator and the World Health Organisation are standing by the jab, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. However, health officials in Denmark have now decided to ditch it for good.

“Denmark’s vaccination campaign will go ahead without the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Denmark has reported 2 cases of thrombosis (blood clotting) linked to administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of which proved fatal. The blood clot incidents arose after 140,000 people had received the jab. The Bangkok Post reports that 8% of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated and 17% have received their first dose.

The country plans to continue its rollout using the Modern and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Officials say they are confident that the availability of other jabs, coupled with the fact that Covid-19 is relatively under control in Denmark, means the country’s mass inoculation can continue without issue.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has released a statement acknowledging the decision taken by Danish health authorities.

“We recognise and respect the decision taken by the Danish Health Authority. Implementation and rollout of the vaccine programme is a matter for each country to decide, based on local conditions. We will continue to collaborate with the regulators and local authorities to provide all available data to inform their decisions.”

SOURCE: Euro News | Bangkok Post

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