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

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

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 deaths surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients’ “brain fog”

The Thaiger

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Covid-19 deaths surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients’ “brain fog” | The Thaiger

The world’s Covid-19-related deaths has passed the 1 million mark overnight as the the cycle of the world’s lockdowns and re-openings are getting mixed results. As of this morning, Thai time, the number of total deaths has reached 1,002,389, with 4,000-6,000 deaths still being recorded, globally, every day. And rising. On a more positive note, the number of daily deaths continues to level off, even dropping some weeks, as treatments continue to improve and the virus is better understood. At this stage, officially, only 0.42% of the world’s population has so far been infected, according to worldometers.info.

The milestone comes in a week where another report from the UK catalogues the “brain fog” experienced by former Covid-19 sufferers.

Covid-19 deaths surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients'
The current hotspots for the virus, now 9 months in circulation, of new daily cases is led by India. Yesterday, India added 82,000+ cases to the world total whilst the US is showing a resurgence in new cases after dropping the average down during August. There is also a resurgence in new cases in parts of Europe, including the UK, which is now recording more new cases than it was at its peak in the first wave in April and May this year. The following graphs records the top 10 countries for new Covid-19 cases recorded yesterday…

Covid-19 deaths surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients'

SOURCE: worldometers.info

Both South America and India are showing the highest rates of new cases, in pure numbers, whilst US health authorities are concerned about the latest surge in new cases as the country starts to head into its autumn and cooler weather.

Meanwhile, more former Covid-19 patients, even those who only suffered mild symptoms, continue to report about long-term effects from the coronavirus.

In Canada, some 130,000 Canadians have recovered but some patients report that they’re experiencing “debilitating side effects” months after their infection. Canadian scientists report that they are finding some of the long-term effects of Covid-19 include heart damage as well as neurological issues like “brain fog” and “difficulty thinking”. Other patients are reporting hair loss, fatigue and even painful lesions called “Covid toes,” many weeks or even months after infection.

One study based out of Italy reports that nearly 90% of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 reported at least one persistent symptom two months later.

39 doctors wrote about these “long-haulers” and their battle with Covid-19 and their persistent symptoms in a manifesto published in the British Medical Journal. Following the report, the doctors called on politicians, scientists and public health officials to conduct more research into chronic Covid-19 symptoms and to create additional clinical services.

“Failure to understand the underlying biological mechanisms causing these persisting symptoms risks missing opportunities to identify risk factors, prevent chronicity, and find treatment approaches for people affected now and in the future.”

The reports also defined the affected patients as not in the current list of “at risk” Covid-19 patients – usually elderly with underlying conditions – but instead representing a much wider demographic of younger and healthy patients who were experiencing the post-Covid symptoms.

SOURCE: BBC | CTV News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

IATA proposes Covid testing before travelling to replace quarantine on arrival

The Thaiger & The Nation

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IATA proposes Covid testing before travelling to replace quarantine on arrival | The Thaiger

The International Air Transport Association is proposing travellers to take a Covid test prior to departure to replace worldwide mandatory quarantines on arrival. The push comes after it announces that international travel is down by 92% this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As many countries are imposing mandatory quarantines that can be not only expensive but up to 14 days long, the IATA is calling for all countries to work together to create a pre-flight testing requirement in all airports.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO says that Covid testing is getting faster, cheaper and more accurate, which is why it is urgent to help kick-start the world economy by doing away with mandatory quarantines.

“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic Covid-19 testing of all travelers before departure. This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work.”

He says the removal of such quarantine requirements for nations like Canada and UK would also help those nationals to leave their countries confidently by knowing that accurate testing would be in place. IATA has also asked for feedback and says of those travellers polled, 65% agree that if a person tests negative for Covid-19, then they should not have to undergo a quarantine on arrival. 84% also agree that, instead, travellers should be required to get tested with 88% even agreeing that they would submit to testing as part of the travel process.

Over 5000 travel businesses have reportedly backed the IATA’s proposal after submitting an open letter to the president of the European Commission, demanding the EU to take action. However, testing and later vaccinating 7.8 billion people could prove to be a monumental task, one that may take months to devise a streamlined plan to carry out.

SOURCE: Travel Off Path

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Economy

Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand

The Thaiger

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Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand | The Thaiger

Vietnamese finance officials are downgrading expectations for a recovery of the south east Asian nation’s economy in 2021. The normally fast-growing gross domestic product in 2020 has stalled due to a huge drop in local and global demand, and the absence of international tourism. The booming economy, growing at an average of 6% per year since 2012, will struggle to reach a growth rate of 2% this year.

Fuelled by manufactured exports, the Vietnam economy has dropped back to a trickle. The Asian Development Bank estimates that this year’s GDP growth could be as low as 1.8%. The Vietnamese factories, that usually crank out shoes, garments, furniture and cheap electronics, are seeing dropping demand as the world’s consumer confidence drops dramatically.

Stay-at-home rules in Europe and America are keeping are keeping people away from retail stores. And despite the acceleration of online retail, many of the consumers are emerging from the Covid Spring and Summer with vastly reduced spending power.

The headaches of 2020 are also challenging Vietnam to maintain its reputation as south east Asia’s manufacturing hotspot. Rising costs and xenophobic foreign policy have put China ‘on the nose’ with some governments, complicating factory work in China, whilst other south east Asian countries lack infrastructure and are incurring higher wage costs.

One Vietnamese factory operated by Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, which produces footwear for top international brands, has laid off 150 workers earlier this year. There are hundreds more examples of the impact of falling demand in the bustling Vietnamese manufacturing economy.

Vietnam’s border closure is also preventing investors from making trips, setting up meetings and pushing projects forward. Those projects in turn create jobs, fostering Vietnam’s growing middle class. Tourism has also been badly affected by the restrictions on travel. “International tourism is dead,” says Jack Nguyen, a partner at Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Inbound tourism usually makes up 6% of the economy.”

“Things will only pick up only when the borders are open and there’s no quarantine requirements. Who knows when that’s going to be.”

A mid-year COVID-19 outbreak in the coastal resort city Danang followed by the start of the school year has reduced domestic travel, analysts say. Some of the country’s hotels are up for sale as a result.

“Recovery could take 4 years.”

The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment is now warning that global post-pandemic recovery could take as long as 4 years, perhaps more.

Not that foreign investors in the country are pulling out. Indeed, many are tainge a long-term view that Vietnam’s underlying strengths will outlive Covid-19. Vietnam reports just 1,069 coronavirus cases overall.

SOURCE: VOA News

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