Opinion

Governments around the world condemn Myanmar’s military coup

Soldiers guarded streets in Naypyidaw on Feb. 1, 2021, after the military detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s president in a coup. (AFP)
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Updated 03 February 2021

Governments around the world condemn Myanmar’s military coup

  • US threatens to take action against perpetrators
  • China calls for all sides to ‘resolve differences’

LONDON: The United States led governments around the world in calling for the restoration of Myanmar’s democracy on Monday after the military staged a coup, arresting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians.
President Joe Biden threatened new sanctions on Myanmar and assailed the country’s army for the coup, calling it a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and rule of law.” 
“The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy,” Biden said in a statement, using Myanmar’s former name. “The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action. The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.”

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Myanmar has been a Western democracy promotion project for decades and had been a symbol of some success. But over the past several years, there have been growing concerns about its backsliding into authoritarianism. Disappointment with Suu Kyi, the former opposition leader, has run high, especially over her resistance to reining in repression of Rohingya Muslims in the country’s west.
“The international community should come together in one voice to press the Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power they have seized,” Biden said.

“We will work with our partners throughout the region and the world to support the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, as well as to hold accountable those responsible for overturning Burma’s democratic transition.”
Newly appointed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called on Myanmar’s military “to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8.”
Before the coup, Washington, alongside several other Western nations, had urged the military to “adhere to democratic norms” in a Jan. 29 statement that came as the commander-in-chief threatened to revoke the country’s constitution.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the coup and the “unlawful imprisonment of civilians, including” Suu Kyi.

“The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released,” he tweeted.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also added his words of condemnation about the state of emergency the Myanmar military had imposed.
“The democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar must be respected, and the National Assembly peacefully re-convened,” he said on Twitter.

Britain’s foreign ministry said it would pursue diplomatic steps with its allies to ensure a return to democracy in Myanmar and summoned the southeast Asian country’s ambassador for a meeting with Minister for Asia Nigel Adams.
“The Minister for Asia made clear the democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar must be respected, and the National Assembly peacefully re-convened. He also said that the UK would work with like-minded partners and pursue all necessary diplomatic levers to ensure a peaceful return to democracy,” Britain’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
China, which regularly opposes UN intervention in Myanmar, called for all sides to “resolve differences.”
“China is a friendly neighbor of Myanmar and hopes the various parties in Myanmar will appropriately resolve their differences under the constitutional and legal framework to protect political and social stability,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly” condemned the military’s detention of Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders.

“These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar,” spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
The UN also said it fears the coup will worsen the plight of some 600,000 Rohingya Muslims still in the country.
“There are about 600,000 Rohingya those that remain in Rakhine State, including 120,000 people who are effectively confined to camps, they cannot move freely and have extremely limited access to basic health and education services,” Dujarric told reporters.
“So our fear is that the events may make the situation worse for them,” he said.

The 15-member UN Security Council plans to discuss Myanmar in a closed meeting on Tuesday, diplomats said.
“We want to address the long-term threats to peace and security, of course working closely with Myanmar’s Asia and ASEAN neighbors,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward, president of the council for February, told reporters.
China, backed by Russia, shielded Myanmar from any significant council action after the 2017 military crackdown. Beijing and Moscow are council veto powers along with France, Britain and the United States.

The Myanmar army said it had detained Suu Kyi and others in response to “election fraud,” handing power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and imposing a state of emergency for one year.
The United Nations called for the release of all those detained, Dujarric said. He said Guterres’ special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, “remains actively engaged” and is likely to brief the Security Council.
Japan urged Myanmar’s military to free Suu Kyi and to restore democracy.
“We request the release of stakeholders including state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi who was detained today,” Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement urging “the national army to quickly restore the democratic political system in Myanmar.”
European Council President Charles Michel strongly condemned the coup.

“The outcome of the elections has to be respected and democratic process needs to be restored,” the former Belgian prime minister tweeted.
“We call on the military to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.
“We have noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern. India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it was appalled by the arrest of Suu Kyi, who won the peace prize in 1991, president Win Myint and other political leaders, and called for their “immediate release.”
Myanmar had been emerging from decades of strict military rule and international isolation that began in 1962, and Monday’s events were a shocking fall from power for Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work promoting democracy and human rights.
She had lived under house arrest for years as she tried to push her country toward democracy and then became its de facto leader after her National League for Democracy won elections in 2015.

(With AFP, Reuters and AP)


Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence

Updated 15 sec ago

Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence

  • Finland reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in NATO in May
  • As it stands, Finland’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences
HELSINKI: Finnish parliament passed legislation Thursday to build stronger fences on its border with Russia, as the country seeks to join NATO following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in the military alliance in May, formally starting the process to join this week.
Fearing that Moscow could use migrants to exert political pressure, the new amendments to Border Guard Act facilitate the construction of sturdier fences on the Nordic country’s 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) eastern border with Russia.
The aim of the law is to “improve the operational capacity of the border guard in responding to the hybrid threats,” Anne Ihanus, a senior adviser at the interior ministry, said.
“The war in Ukraine has contributed to the urgency of the matter,” she added.
As it stands, Finland’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences, mainly designed to stop livestock from wandering to the wrong side.
“What we are aiming to build now is a sturdy fence with a real barrier effect,” Sanna Palo, director of the Finnish border guards’ legal division, said.
“In all likelihood, the fence will not cover the entire eastern border, but will be targeted at locations considered to be the most important,” Palo said.
The new law makes it also possible to close border crossings and concentrate asylum seekers at specific points, in the event of large-scale crossover attempt.
Helsinki also passed amendments to Emergency Powers Act to make the definition of “emergency” better take account of various hybrid threats.

Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing

Updated 28 min 15 sec ago

Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to the federal civil rights charges in December

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is due to be sentenced in federal court on Thursday for violating the civil rights of George Floyd, a year after a state court sent him to prison for more than two decades for murdering Floyd in an arrest.
Chauvin pleaded guilty to the federal civil rights charges in December in the US District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, a decision that averted a second trial but almost certainly extended his time behind bars.
Chauvin, who is white, admitted he violated Floyd’s right not to face “unreasonable seizure” by kneeling on the handcuffed Black man’s neck for more than 9 minutes in a murder captured on cellphone video that horrified people around the world.
A state court has already sentenced Chauvin to 22-1/2 years in prison for intentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. People sentenced to prison for felonies in Minnesota are usually released on parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence.
Chauvin’s guilty plea to the federal charges came as part of an agreement with prosecutors that said he would face between 20 and 25 years in federal prison.
In that agreement he admitted for the first time that he was to blame for Floyd’s death.
Floyd could be seen in videos pleading for his life before falling still on the road beneath Chauvin’s knee. A medical examiner ruled the police restraint stopped Floyd from being able to breathe.
Federal prosecutors have asked Judge Paul Magnuson to sentence Chauvin to 25 years, a sentence that would run concurrently with the state one.
Floyd’s murder sparked one of the biggest protest movements seen in the United States, with daily marches to decry racism and brutality in US policing. Chauvin was helping three colleagues to arrest Floyd in May 2020 on suspicion Floyd had used a fake $20 bill when buying cigarettes.
The three other former police officers who worked to arrest Floyd — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane — were found guilty in the same federal court in February of violating Floyd’s rights. They are yet to receive a sentencing date.


Boris Johnson to announce resignation as UK PM — government source

Updated 07 July 2022

Boris Johnson to announce resignation as UK PM — government source

  • With eight ministers resigning, an isolated Johnson set to bow to inevitable, declare he’s stepping down
  • The Conservatives will now have to elect a new leader, a process which could take about two months

LONDON: Boris Johnson will announce his resignation as British Prime Minister on Thursday, a government source said, after he was abandoned by ministers and his Conservative Party’s lawmakers who said he was no longer fit to govern.

With eight ministers, including two secretaries of state, resigning in the last two hours, an isolated and powerless Johnson was set to bow to the inevitable and declare his was stepping down later.

His Downing Street office confirmed that Johnson would make a statement to the country later.

After days of battling for his job, Johnson had been abandoned by all but a handful of allies after the latest in a series of scandals broke their willingness to support him.

“His resignation was inevitable,” Justin Tomlinson, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, said on Twitter. “As a party we must quickly unite and focus on what matters. These are serious times on many fronts.”

The Conservatives will now have to elect a new leader, a process which could take about two months.

In a sign of his evaporating support over one of the most turbulent 24 hours in recent British political history, Johnson’s finance minister, Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed to his post on Tuesday, had called on his boss to resign.

“This is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country,” he said on Twitter. “You must do the right thing and go now.”

Some of those that remained in post, including defense minister Ben Wallace, said they were only doing so because they had an obligation to keep the country safe.

There had been so many ministerial resignations that the government was facing paralysis.

The ebullient Johnson came to power nearly three years ago, promising to deliver Britain’s departure from the European Union and rescue it from the bitter wrangling that followed the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Since then, some Conservatives had enthusiastically backed the former journalist and London mayor while others, despite reservations, supported him because he was able to appeal to parts of the electorate that usually rejected their party.

That was borne out in the December 2019 election. But his administration’s combative and often chaotic approach to governing and a series of scandals have exhausted the goodwill of many of his lawmakers while opinion polls show he is no longer popular with the public at large.

The recent crisis erupted after lawmaker Chris Pincher, who held a government role involved in pastoral care, was forced to quit over accusations he groped men in a private member’s club.

Johnson had to apologize after it emerged that he was briefed that Pincher had been the subject of previous sexual misconduct complaints before he appointed him. The prime minister said he had forgotten.

This followed months of scandals and missteps, including a damning report into boozy parties at his Downing Street residence and office that broke strict COVID-19 lockdown rules and saw him fined by police over a gathering for his 56th birthday.

There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defense of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism that he has not done enough to tackle inflation, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.


Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island

Updated 07 July 2022

Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island

  • Russian forces withdrew from Snake Island in the Black Sea on June 30

Russia’s defense ministry said on Thursday that a Russian warplane struck Ukraine’s Snake Island in the Black Sea overnight, shortly after Ukrainian troops claimed to have raised their flag over the island.
Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian President’s chief of staff, posted a video on Telegram on Thursday of three soldiers raising a large Ukrainian flag on the island, from which Russian forces withdrew on June 30.


Boris Johnson to quit as UK prime minister

Updated 50 min 40 sec ago

Boris Johnson to quit as UK prime minister

  • His Downing Street office said Johnson would make a statement to the country later

LONDON: Boris Johnson will announce his resignation as British prime minister on Thursday after he was abandoned by ministers and his Conservative Party’s lawmakers who said he was no longer fit to govern.

After ministers, including two secretaries of state, continued to quit the government early on Thursday, an isolated and powerless Johnson was set to bow to the inevitable and declare he was stepping down later, a source said.

His Downing Street office said Johnson would make a statement to the country later.

After days of battling for his job, Johnson had been deserted by all but a handful of allies after the latest in a series of scandals broke their willingness to support him.

“His resignation was inevitable,” Justin Tomlinson, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, said on Twitter. “As a party we must quickly unite and focus on what matters. These are serious times on many fronts.”

The Conservatives will now have to elect a new leader, a process which could take weeks or months. It was not clear whether Johnson would or could stay on in a caretaker role while the person who would be the new prime minister was chosen.

Many said he should leave immediately and hand over to his deputy, Dominic Raab.

“As well as resigning as party leader the PM must resign his office,” Conservative parliamentary deputy Nick Gibb said. “After losing so many ministers, he has lost the trust and authority required to continue.”

The crisis comes as Britons are facing some of the tightest squeeze on finances in decades, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with soaring inflation, and the economy forecast to be the weakest among major nations in 2023 apart from Russia.

It also follows years of internal division sparked by the narrow 2016 vote to leave the European Union, and threats to the make-up of the United Kingdom itself with demands for another Scottish independence referendum, the second in a decade.

Support for Johnson had evaporated during one of the most turbulent 24 hours in recent British political history, epitomised by finance minister, Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed to his post on Tuesday, calling on his boss to resign.

Zahawi and other cabinet ministers had gone to Downing Street on Wednesday evening, along with a senior representative of those lawmakers not in government, to tell Johnson the game was up.

Initially, Johnson refused to go and seemed set to dig in, sacking Michael Gove — a member of his top ministerial team who was one of the first to tell him he needed to resign — in a bid to reassert his authority.

One ally had told the Sun newspaper that party rebels would “have to dip their hands in blood” to get rid of Johnson.

But by Thursday morning as a slew of resignations poured in, it became clear his position was untenable.

“This is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country,” Zahawi said on Twitter. “You must do the right thing and go now.”

Some of those that remained in post, including defense minister Ben Wallace, said they were only doing so because they had an obligation to keep the country safe.

There had been so many ministerial resignations that the government was facing paralysis with no one willing to accept the vacant posts.

“It is our duty now to make sure the people of this country have a functioning government. This is true now more than ever,” Michael Ellis, a minister in the Cabinet Office department which oversees the running of government, told parliament.

The ebullient Johnson came to power nearly three years ago, promising to deliver Brexit and rescue it from the bitter wrangling that followed the 2016 referendum.

Since then, some Conservatives had enthusiastically backed the former journalist and London mayor while others, despite reservations, supported him because he was able to appeal to parts of the electorate that usually rejected their party.

That was borne out in the December 2019 election. But his administration’s combative and often chaotic approach to governing and a series of scandals exhausted the goodwill of many of his lawmakers while opinion polls show he is no longer popular with the public at large.

The recent crisis erupted after lawmaker Chris Pincher, who held a government role involved in pastoral care, was forced to quit over accusations he groped men in a private member’s club.

Johnson had to apologize after it emerged that he was briefed that Pincher had been the subject of previous sexual misconduct complaints before he appointed him. The prime minister said he had forgotten.

This followed months of scandals and missteps, including a damning report into boozy parties at his Downing Street residence and office that broke COVID-19 lockdown rules and saw him fined by police over a gathering for his 56th birthday.

There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defense of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism that he has not done enough to tackle inflation, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Johnson’s resignation was good news for Britain.

“But it should have happened long ago,” he said. “He was always unfit for office. He has been responsible for lies, scandal and fraud on an industrial scale.”