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Category: Asia (page 1 of 412)

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Myanmar Military Investigating Death of 2 Boys Allegedly Used as Minesweepers   

Myanmar’s military said it is investigating the recent deaths of two Muslim boys and the injury of another while the children allegedly were being used as human minesweepers when crossfire erupted between the military and the Arakan Army, an armed group seeking independence.Army Major General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for the Tatmadaw, as the Burmese army is called, said, “We are launching an investigation about that incident, in case, if there are any discrepancies or weaknesses in handling the said case.” Zaw Min Tun said the Tatmadaw brought the bodies of two boys to their village, Pyin-shay, a Muslim area, and took the injured child to a military hospital for treatment. Myanmar is Buddhist majority.The identities of the boys have not been released.Rohingya refugee children fly kites in Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on Oct. 11, 2020.According to the U.N. Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Violations against Children in Myanmar, October 5, “two boys were killed in Buthidaung Township, Rakhine State, in crossfire between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army. This occurred after the children, as part of a group of 15 local farmers, were alleged to all have been forced to walk in front of a Tatmadaw unit to ensure the path toward a military camp was clear of landmines and to protect the soldiers from potential enemy fire.“On the way, fighting broke out between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army, after which the two boys were found dead with gunshot wounds,” the taskforce stated.“We call for a full, transparent, and expedited investigation of the incident and for anyone responsible for the use and for the killing of the children to be held accountable,” the CTFMR also stated. A Pyin-shay village resident who did not want his name used told VOA’s Burmese service that the Tatmadaw had forced some 15 villagers to work as porters as the military advanced.“AA did not shoot at them,” the villager said.“They died in crossfire between the AA and military. The military did not release them. They ran for their lives.  We brought back two bodies to the village and buried them,” he said.Rakhine State, in Myanmar’s far west, borders Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal. The ethnic Rakhines are waging a Rohingya refugee children play football at Thankhali refugee camp, in Ukhia on Oct. 6, 2020.The agencies also voiced “deep alarm” over an alarming increase in reports of killings and injuries of children in Myanmar.More than 100 children were killed or maimed in conflict during the first three months of 2020, amounting to more than half of the total number in 2019, and significantly surpassing the number of child casualties in 2018, according to the U.N.The most recent incident occurred within 12 months of the delisting of the Tatmadaw for underage recruitment in the U.N. Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) of 2020, agencies noted.

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Embattled Malaysian PM Receives Support From Former Ruling Party

Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has received crucial support from a key ally in his attempt to keep his fragile governing coalition together.
The United Malays National Organization issued a statement Monday offering its support for the prime minister as the country faces a surge of new coronavirus cases.   
Prime Minister Muhyiddin appeared to be on the brink of being forced from power a day earlier after King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected his request to declare a state of emergency due to the pandemic. Had the king approved Muhyiddin’s request, the state of emergency would have suspended parliament before the prime minister is due to present a budget in early November.   
Failure to pass the budget would be the equivalent of a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin and put pressure on him to call for a general election.    
Muhyiddin has been prime minister since February, when he was chosen by King Abdullah after then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unexpectedly resigned and his government collapsed. His slim alliance includes UMNO, which had ruled Malaysia for more than six decades since it gained independence from Britain in 1957.
UMNO leaders have been angered over Muhyiddin’s failure to place its members in senior leadership positions.   
Veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim met with the king last month and said he gave the monarch the names of 120 members of the 222-seat parliament who are ready to defect from the prime minister’s coalition. Anwar led a coalition that ousted scandal-tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling UMNO-led coalition from power in a historic election in 2018.   
But Najib, who remains in parliament despite a conviction on corruption charges, has called on UMNO to join forces with Anwar’s coalition.   

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New Storm Bears Down on Flood-Damaged Central Vietnam

The third typhoon in a month is bearing down on Central Vietnam, where residents are still reeling from historic flooding and landslides that have claimed 130 lives and affected more than 5 million people.Another 20 people are still missing in the wake of two storms that ravaged the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh.Typhoon Linfa and Typhoon Nangka both hit in the first two weeks of October. Now Typhoon Molave is bearing down and expected to hit the same region within hours.A monk hands out food supplies to locals in a pagoda in Quang Tri.Local authorities have asked residents in Da Nang and Hue to stay indoors through Tuesday night for their own safety, and are preparing to potentially evacuate nearly 1.3 million people from the most vulnerable areas.The storm’s eye was forecast to be directly over Da Nang’s coastline by 10 am Thursday with winds reaching up to 150 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 167-183 kilometers per hour.Residents in Da Nang have been taking preventive measures by sandbagging the entrances to their homes and businesses. Meanwhile, local workers have been frantically lopping treetops in the My Khe beach neighborhood.Residents have been told to expect power cuts and more potential flooding and landslides over the coming days.Last week, 22 soldiers went missing in a landslide at a military camp in Quang Tri and as of now 14 bodies have been found. This is likely to be the greatest loss of life to strike Vietnam’s military since the end of its civil war.Quang Tri was a significant battlefront in the Vietnam War and underground military tunnels as well as tanks from the war are still on display today.A woman pushes a child on a bicycle through a flooded street in Quang Tri.Each year the central coastal provinces of Vietnam are prone to massive storms; however, the severity of this year’s flooding is the worst the country has seen in over two decades.The heavier than usual downpours this year are being attributed to a “La Nina” climate pattern, which as many as five or six more tropical depressions could reach Vietnam’s 2,000-mile coastline this year.“The flooding in Quang Tri is worse than the floods in 1999, but we are Vietnamese and we are strong,” said Ms Anh, a local resident who is assisting with the relief effort. “The government is of course helping us and other locally-run charities are helping as well.”Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh said last week that the government will be provide the equivalent of about $21.5 million to five of the hardest hit provinces.The wetlands of Quang Tri are home to many farmers who mainly grow rice and raise livestock, much of which has been lost in the floods.“We will collect the money and other items to provide for the local people… these days, the local people have nothing to eat, nothing to drink… so we will try to provide them with something to eat and drink,” said a local female volunteer helping out at a Buddhist pagoda in Quang Tri.A local man wearing a raincoat stands near a home that was recently flooded in Quang Tri.The monks and other members of the pagoda have been providing food and assistance for 200 households in a flood-affected village in Quang Tri. The damage to rice paddies, roads, homes, schools, shops and other businesses is clearly visible throughout the coastal areas of the province.Almost every remaining house in the wetland areas shows a distinct muddy line just a few meters from the ceiling, showing how high the water levels rose. Other houses were completely submerged.Lacking electricity and pumps, residents have been laboriously sweeping out the muddy water with brooms and wheelbarrows. Schools have been shut for over two weeks and many facilities, including computers, playground equipment, textbooks and toys have been destroyed.Locals walking through a flooded road in Quang Tri.Since the beginning of October, dramatic images and videos carried in the local media have shown distressed people searching for their missing loved ones, fisherman caught at sea being rescued by emergency workers in helicopters, and locals climbing onto their roofs as they wait to be rescued.The United States Agency for International Development gifted the Vietnam Red Cross Society $100,000 on Saturday, and another $100,000 has been promised by the U.N. Development Program and Save the Children Vietnam. The Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Robyn Mudie, announced Friday that Australia will be providing the equivalent of $71,000 in relief funds as well.Pacific Links Foundation and Blue Dragon are two prominent organizations that are working on the ground in the flood zones helping families at risk by donating aid and raising money. 

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Long COVID-19 Lockdown Ends In Australia’s Second Most Populous City

One of the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdowns is coming to an end in the Australian city of Melbourne. Beginning Tuesday, all shops, cafes and restaurants can re-open, and strict-stay-at home orders will be lifted. The lockdown was imposed in early July in response to a deadly second wave of infections.  Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, has for a second consecutive day recorded no new coronavirus infections or fatalities. A sustained fall in daily cases has allowed the authorities to end one of the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdowns in the city of Melbourne.  Starting on Tuesday, the retail and hospitality industries can reopen, although conditions still apply. Face coverings remain mandatory, and cafes and restaurants can serve a maximum of 20 people inside and 50 people outdoors. Weddings can now proceed with up to 10 guests and funerals with 20 mourners. Strict stay-at-home orders imposed on Melbourne’s five million residents will end. Victoria premier Daniel Andrews says now is the time to bring the lockdown to an end.“We are able to say that now is the time to open up.  This belongs to every single Victorian, every single Victorian who has followed the rules, stayed the course, worked with me and my team to bring this second wave to an end.  But it is not over.  This virus is not going away.  It is going to continue to be a feature of our lives every day until a vaccine turns up. These are big steps,” Andrews said.Men queue for a haircut outside a barber shop in Melbourne on October 19, 2020, as some of the city’s three-month-old stay-at-home restrictions due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak were further eased on falling infection rates.Victoria state has been at the center of Australia’s COVID-19 crisis.  It has had the majority of infections and almost 90 per cent of the nation’s virus fatalities.    The lockdown has not been universally popular.   Two people have been charged over an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne last week, including a woman who allegedly kicked a police horse.    The state government has been accused of being too cautious while jobs were lost and there are concerns that the mental health consequences will be dire.    Victoria’s conservative opposition leader is Michael O’Brien. “There will be scars on the psyche of this state that will not heal.  There are many, many people whose lives have changed permanently because of what they have had to endure over the last few months,” O’Brien said.More than 27,500 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in Australia, and 905 people have died.  The federal government has said there have been four critical parts to the nation’s response to the pandemic: the closure of its international borders to foreign travelers, widespread testing, reliable contact tracing and community respect for hygiene and physical distancing protocols.     Victoria’s state government has indicated it plans to ease other restrictions in early November that are likely to include reopening gyms and allowing residents to travel more than 25 kilometers from home. As Melbourne’s lockdown comes to an end, there is immense relief and celebration among residents, or as local media have put it, there have been “cheers, tears and beers.” 

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Pentagon: State Department OKs Potential Arms Sales to Taiwan

The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of 100 Boeing-made Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems to Taiwan in a deal that has a potential value of up to $2.37 billion, the Pentagon said Monday. The move comes days after the State Department approved the potential sale of three other weapons systems to Taiwan, including sensors, missiles and artillery that could have a total value of $1.8 billion which prompted a sanctions threat from China. Earlier Monday in Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters China will impose sanctions on Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense, Raytheon and other U.S. companies it says are involved in Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan. The U.S. moves come as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China in the run-up to the November 3 presidential election and concerns rise about Beijing’s intentions toward Taiwan. Beijing sees Taiwan as a renegade province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary. 

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Vietnam Ready To Evacuate 1.3 Million People As Typhoon Approaches

Vietnam is preparing to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people as it braces for the impact of typhoon Molave, which lashed the Philippines overnight causing flooding, landslides and leaving at least a dozen fishermen missing on Monday.
Typhoon Molave, with wind speeds of 125 kilometer (77 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 150 kph, left the main Philippine island of Luzon earlier on Monday, with heavy rain causing seven landslides and floods in 11 areas, the disaster agency said.
There were no reports of casualties, but 12 fishermen at sea failed to return to Catanduanes province off the country’s eastern coast.
Molave, the 17th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, is forecast to make landfall in central Vietnam on Wednesday, with wind speeds of up to 135 kph.
It will be the fourth storm to hit Vietnam in a tumultuous month during which floods and landslides have killed 130 people and left 20 missing in the central region.
Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline.
“This is a very strong typhoon that will impact a large area,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in an urgent warning to provinces and cities in Molave’s path to prepare.
Phuc compared Molave to typhoon Damrey, which killed more than 100 people in central Vietnam in 2017. He ordered boats ashore and told the security forces to get ready.
“Troops must deploy full force to support people, including mobilizing helicopters, tanks and other means of transportation if needed,” Phuc said in a statement.
About 11.8 million people in Vietnam’s costal provinces are exposed to the threat of intense flooding, with 35% of settlements located on crowded and eroding coastlines, a World Bank report said last week.

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Coronavirus Pandemic Casts Pall Over Asian Markets  

Asian markets are mixed Monday as investors appear to be reacting with uncertainty over the resurgence of COVID-19 across Europe and the United States. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index ended its trading session down 22 points, but unchanged percentage-wise. The S&P/ASX index in Australia lost 0.1%.  South Korea’s KOSPI index dropped 0.7. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.5%. Taiwan’s TSEC index was up 10 points, but was unchanged percentage-wise.   In late afternoon trading, Shanghai’s Composite index was 0.8% lower, and Mumbai’s Sensex was down one percent. In commodities trading, gold was selling at $1,898.20, down 0.3%.  U.S. crude oil is selling at $38.90 per barrel, down 2.3%, and Brent crude is selling at $40.83 per barrel, down 2.2%.   All three major U.S. indices are trending negatively in futures trading.   

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Australian Anguish at Passenger Strip Searches in Qatar

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports Australia has formally complained about what it is calling the “offensive and grossly inappropriate” treatment of passengers at Doha airport in Qatar. The report says thirteen Australian women were taken off a flight to Sydney after a newborn baby was found in an airport bathroom and the travelers were forced to have invasive internal examinations.Airport authorities say when a premature baby was discovered in a bathroom at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, on October 2, all female passengers onboard a flight preparing to fly to Sydney were taken off the aircraft.  The group included 13 Australian women.   They were taken to two ambulances waiting outside the airport and subjected to strip searches.  Some of the women have told local media they were terrified and were not told why the examinations were being carried out.      The Australian Federal Police have been informed, although it is unclear what powers investigators might have over an incident that occurred in the Middle East.    Australian foreign minister Marise Payne says Australia has formally complained to Qatar. “We also understand the matter has been reported to the Australian Federal Police. This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events. It is not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life in any context. We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities on this matter,” Payne said.Media reports have said the Australian women could take legal action against authorities in Qatar. Australian Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese says their treatment has been unbelievable. “Reports of this treatment are really disturbing. The idea that women could be subject to these very intrusive searches is in my view an absolute disgrace,” Albanese said.In a statement, airport officials in Doha said the baby was “safe” and being cared for in Qatar.They added that medical staff had expressed concern to them “about the health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth and requested she be located prior to departing.”  Australian authorities have said they are expecting a report on the incident from the Qatari Government later this week. 

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