All posts by Administrator

An Airplane Dilemma: Convenience Versus Environment

Mr. President:  There are many consequences of COVID-19 that have changed the existing landscape due to the cumulative effects of personal behavior.  For example, the decline in the use of automobiles has been to the benefit of the environment.  A landmark study published by Nature in May 2020 confirmed a 17 percent drop in daily CO2 emissions but with the expectation that the number will bounce back as human activity returns to normal.

Yet there is hope.  We are all creatures of habit and having tried teleconferences, we are less likely to take the trouble to hop on a plane for a personal meeting, wasting time and effort.  Such is also the belief of aircraft operators.  Add to this the convenience of shopping from home and having the stuff delivered to your door and one can guess what is happening.

In short, the need for passenger planes has diminished while cargo operators face increased demand.  Fewer passenger planes also means a reduction in belly cargo capacity worsening the situation.  All of which has led to a new business with new jobs — converting passenger aircraft for cargo use.  It is not as simple as it might seem, and not just a matter of removing seats, for all unnecessary items must be removed for cargo use. They take up cargo weight and if not removed waste fuel.

After the seats and interior fittings have been removed, the cabin floor has to be strengthened.  The side windows are plugged and smoothed out.  A cargo door is cut out and the existing emergency doors are deactivated and sealed.  Also a new crew entry door has to be cut-out and installed. 

A new in-cabin cargo barrier with a sliding access door is put in, allowing best use of cargo and cockpit space and a merged carrier and crew space.  A new crew lavatory together with replacement water and waste systems replace the old, which supplied the original passenger area and are no longer needed.

The cockpit gets upgrades which include a simplified air distribution system and revised hydraulics.  At the end of it all, we have a cargo jet.  If the airlines are converting their planes, then they must believe not all the travelers will be returning after the covid crisis recedes.

Airline losses have been extraordinary.  Figures sourced from the World Bank and the International Civil Aviation Organization reveal air carriers lost $370 billion in revenues.  This includes $120 billion in the Asia-Pacific region, $100 billion in Europe and $88 billion in North America.

For many of the airlines, it is now a new business model transforming its fleet for cargo demand and launching new cargo routes.  The latter also requires obtaining regulatory approvals.

A promising development for the future is sustainable aviation fuel (SAP).  Developed by the Air France KLM Martinair consortium it reduces CO2 emissions, and cleaner air transport contributes to lessening global warming.

It is a good start since airplanes are major transportation culprits increasing air pollution and radiative forcing.  The latter being the heat reflected back to earth when it is greater than the heat radiated from the earth.  All of which should incline the environmentally conscious to avoid airplane travel — buses and trains pollute less and might be a preferred alternative for domestic travel.

By: Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Credit: moderndiplomacy.eu

Junta reportedly eyeing November reopening of schools

People in Mandalay protest against a ‘dark age of education’ under the military on March 22 (EPA)

Striking teachers dismiss a plan to reopen schools as an attempt to normalise military rule, and  vow to continue their resistance to the junta

The military council is reportedly planning to reopen primary, middle and high schools as early as November despite continued threats of Covid-19 and ongoing teacher strikes and student boycotts in accordance with the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) aimed at toppling the junta. 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most schools were already closed at the time of Myanmar’s February 1 military coup. The junta attempted to reopen them nationwide on June 1, the start of Myanmar’s academic year, but more than half of the country’s 400,000 teachers were on strike and just 10 percent of the estimated 9 million students nationwide opted to enrol. More than 100 striking teachers have also been charged under the Penal Code’s Section 505a for incitement, according to the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation. 

Those schools that did reopen in June were later closed again on July 9 when the third wave of the pandemic hit the country. 

However, a photo of a military council notice in Ayeyarwady Region’s Yegyi Township has recently gone viral online instructing the township education officer to prepare the schools to reopen in November.

While an official date for reopening has not been announced, the junta’s information team alluded on Wednesday that such an event was approaching but had been obstructed by anti-coup entities. 

They accused “political extremist members and supporters” of the National League for Democracy, the National Unity Government and the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw of committing arson in schools, inciting violence, and threatening education staff into joining the CDM “while officials made preparations for the reopening of schools.”

A spokesperson from the strike committee of a union for basic education staff—and a striking teacher himself—said his group is against any move by the military to reopen schools, and dismiss it as an attempt by the generals to normalise military administration.  

As the people’s resistance war against the military and the “revolutionary momentum” continues to gain strength, he said that neither he nor his colleagues could break away from the movement.

“It is just impossible for us to become non-CDM [staff] again because we have stayed strong even under their rigorous oppression. In this current situation, we don’t care if they reopen schools—we will continue our resistance,” he said.

Presumably in connection with the reopening of schools, the military council also declared on its newspaper on Wednesday that it was launching a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination program through October 25 for students over the age of 12 using the Chinese-manufactured Sinovac. However, they provided details only for how those vaccines would be administered in the capital, Naypyitaw.

Education staff across the country confirmed to Myanmar Now that they had been told the same announcement by local junta authorities that school would open following the vaccination scheme.

Vaccination rates are low among adults, with rates unknown except for statistics released by the junta’s health department on Tuesday suggesting that just 4.2 million of Myanmar’s more than 50 million people have received two doses of any jab. 

Khant Lu Aung, the father of a high school student from Mandalay who would be eligible for re-enrolment and vaccination, said he did not send his son back to school after the military seized power and would continue to keep him out of the junta’s education system.

“Under a dictatorship, I am not interested in whether the schools open or close. Even if they are really going to reopen, I won’t let my kid go there. Under their rule, whether it is healthcare or education, nothing is reliable,” Khant Lu Aung told Myanmar Now.

Nilar Win, a primary school teacher taking part in the CDM who chose not to reveal her location for security reasons, told Myanmar Now she was concerned about the safety of possibly bringing students back to school next month, given the health crisis and the ongoing instability in the country. 

“It is very questionable that they are reopening schools for the children’s well-being,” she said, adding that the junta has even talked to teachers about “squeezing two school years into one” to make up for learning time lost during the pandemic. 

Teaching modules are typically divided into 36 weeks of lessons, she explained, adding that no information had been shared with teachers about the upcoming curriculum. 

Khant Lu Aung told Myanmar Now that he had prepared for his child to study some academic subjects online during the current school year but that he did not have a long-term plan for their education amid the unrest.

Myanmar Now tried to contact executive director of the junta’s education department Ko Lay Win to comment on the planned reopening of schools, but the calls went unanswered. 

Credit: myanmar-now.org

India resumes Covid-19 vaccine export to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Iran

Photo: Bloomberg

Coronavirus vaccines have been sent to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Iran according to the government’s decision to resume their supplies, the Ministry of External Affairs said

Coronavirus vaccines have been sent to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Iran according to the government’s decision to resume their supplies, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the government has decided to send the supplies to the neighbourhood initially.

India, the world’s largest producer of vaccines overall, suspended exports of COVID-19 vaccines in April to focus on inoculating its own population following a sudden spike in infections.

Last month, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced that India will resume the supplies abroad.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi said recently at the UN General Assembly that India will resume supply of coronavirus vaccines. We have decided to start with the neighbourhood,” Bagchi said.

“As far as I know, vaccines have already gone to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Iran. We are constantly monitoring and reviewing the situation,” he said.

Bagchi said the decision on further supplies will be based on India’s production and demand.

“We will decide on further supplies based on our production and demand,” he said.

Credit: business-standard.com

Myanmar faces falling currency, dollar crunch as economy worsens

A pause in development assistance has led to a foreign exchange crunch in Myanmar [File: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg]

Myanmar is battling a plunging local currency amid an unprecedented dollar shortage, driving up the cost of imports and worsening the economy’s struggle with dual challenges of the pandemic and post-coup financial isolation.

The kyat has tumbled about 50% since the military seized power in February that triggered a freeze on parts of Myanmar’s foreign reserves held in the U.S. and suspension of multilateral aids — both key sources of foreign currency supplies. Restrictions on cash withdrawals have fueled worries about the safety of money in banks, prompting people to seek more widely used currencies such as the U.S or Singaporean dollars or Thai baht, analysts said.

The Central Bank of Myanmar’s efforts to quell the rush for dollars, including stepping up foreign currency supplies and ordering exporters to repatriate earnings within 30 days, have failed to stem the kyat’s slide. The currency may plunge further to 2,400 to a U.S. dollar by the end of this year and 3,200 by end-2022, according to Jason Yek, senior Asia country risk analyst at Fitch Solutions.

The currency sell-off is the latest crisis to hit the country that’s still grappling with street protests following the ouster of the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Nationwide Covid restrictions and a civil disobedience movement by Suu Kyi’s followers have hit normal economic activities, shrinking exports of everything from textiles to agricultural commodities, another source of foreign exchange.

“It is really hard to predict when this financial crisis will end,” said Khine Win, a public policy analyst focusing on economic governance in Myanmar. “Only the restoration of democracy and a legitimate government will unlock the international assistance Myanmar needs to address this crisis, but it’s really hard to see that happening.”

The plunging currency is already taking its toll on Myanmar’s economy, with some businesses shutting down as they are unable to cope with rising costs of imports and raw materials. The economy is estimated to have contracted 18.7% in the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, according to the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office. While the official exchange rate for a dollar was at 1,965 kyat last week, local money managers were quoting 2,200-2,300 kyat, Fitch Solutions’ Yek said.

Though the central bank doesn’t divulge its foreign reserve levels, the recent slide in kyat suggests that “it has likely fallen to a precariously low level” after trying to prop up the currency for months, Yek said.

The currency volatility is expected to ease soon due to recent steps taken by the authorities and higher export earnings seen in November and December, Win Thaw, a deputy governor at the Central Bank of Myanmar, said Monday.

Myanmar’s reserves dwindled after the U.S. froze $1 billion held in the New York Federal Reserve days after the coup, while the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund suspended funding for projects. To preserve the foreign currencies onshore, authorities last month suspended imports of passenger cars and amended the forex law last week.

But putting more controls will further undermine investor confidence in Myanmar and exporters will find ways to keep hard currency offshore, said Vicky Bowman, director of Myanmar Center for Responsible Business.

“The fundamental cause for forex crunch is the collapse in investor confidence in Myanmar and the suspension of development assistance since February,” Bowman said. “Without a political solution which leads to the resumption of lending and restores confidence in the country, it will be difficult for the kyat to recover.”

Foreign direct investment into Myanmar had dwindled with multinational companies becoming increasingly wary of doing business with the military regime and some heading for the exit. Reversing that trend will be key to reversing the kyat’s fortunes.

“We don’t see any FDI coming in and the trend for kyat depreciation may prolong as long as the military remains in power,” Khine Win said. “This could drag more middle class people below the poverty line.”

By Khine Lin Kyaw and Lilian Karunungan
Credit: www.aljazeera.com

The coup united the people of Myanmar against oppression

Demonstrators protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, February 17, 2021 [Stringer/Reuters]

The Burman majority is finally understanding the abuse ethnic minorities have long been experiencing at the hands of the military.

The Myanmar people’s struggle against dictatorship has undergone a long journey since the February 1 military coup in the country. As an activist who has been fighting against fascism and standing for peace and the rights of oppressed minorities for 10 years, I believe we are now in a better place than ever before to come together as a nation to resist ethnic nationalism, destructive political polarisation and the military’s attempts to scare us into submission.

My own views on what an anti-fascist revolution in Myanmar could and should look like have also changed in the eight months since the coup.

During the Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy’s (NLD) five-year rule between 2015-20, I devoted much of my activism to speaking out against their abandonment of democratic and human rights standards and failure to promote peace in areas of the country populated by ethnic nationalities, where conflict between ethnic armed organisations and the military has been ongoing for more than seven decades. I even boycotted the November 2020 general election, which delivered the NLD a second sweeping victory.

So when the coup happened, I initially was not sure where I should stand. While I was disturbed and angered by the military’s power grab, I did not want to put my support behind the NLD, ignoring its past treatment of minority communities, political opponents and activists. But I ultimately decided that the coup is more than a political dispute between the NLD and the military – it represents the forceful suppression of the people’s will, and should be resisted.

I demonstrated from February 6, the day anti-coup protests began in Yangon, through the second week of March, when the junta added my name to its arrest warrant list for “sedition”  and raided my house and office. My family and I narrowly escaped. Knowing that our lives were in danger, my wife and children fled the country, and I took shelter in the territory of an ethnic armed organisation.

Having been sued twice during the NLD’s term in power for supporting ethnic struggles for self-determination and rights, I believed that I understood the perspectives of oppressed minorities in my country.

But staying in their villages, where I listened to people’s stories and learned about their daily realities and struggles, I realised how superficial my understanding of ethnic issues in Myanmar had been.

Although I had a conceptual awareness of what it is like to live as a small-scale farmer in an area affected by civil war – where children commonly walk for hours to get to school, and it can take days to walk to the nearest clinic – it was very different to witness first-hand the toll of war on communities.

Since the coup, fighting between the military and armed resistance groups across the country has displaced at least 230,000 civilians, many of whom fled military air strikes and heavy-weapon attacks. I have passed close to clashes and seen the remnants of landmine explosions. I have also visited displacement camps where people are struggling to meet their basic needs.

But none of this is new for ethnic minority communities in Myanmar. Indeed, Burmese soldiers have been tormenting these communities for decades – looting and burning their villages, conducting arbitrary arrests and committing acts of sexual violence against them. My hosts told me that they rarely build strong houses, because they know that they may need to flee at any time.

Despite standing with oppressed ethnic minorities in my country for over a decade, I only realised the depth of their suffering, and more clearly understood why so many of them see armed resistance as their only option, after this experience.

As my own perspective has shifted, so, too, has the direction of the national protest movement.

In mainland cities where most people are from the ethnic Burman majority, protesters had initially focused on freeing Aung San Suu Kyi and elected officials, pressuring the military into accepting the results of the election, and convening parliament.

But as the military began terrorising people in urban areas, it opened people’s eyes to the rights abuses other ethnic groups have long been facing. As a result, protesters started broadening their ambitions.

Many from the Burman majority began apologising for their prior ignorance or denial of the military’s atrocities against non-Burman ethnic people, including the Rohingya, and calling for justice.

As ethnic armed organisations took a leading role in protecting fleeing dissidents and fighting against the regime, urban youth began trying to learn about ethnic political struggles too.

By the end of March, the leading protest groups were demanding an overhaul of the military-drafted constitution and the establishment of a federal democracy, in line with the calls ethnic nationalities have been making since long before the coup.

With few alternatives, the people have also started to increasingly see armed resistance as the only way to overthrow the junta, and have joined forces with ethnic armed organisations and formed new civilian defence forces and urban guerrilla movements.

On May 5, the National Unity Government (NUG), a body of elected lawmakers, activists and members of civil society in exile who are operating a government in opposition to the junta, announced that it had established a People’s Defence Force (PDF) as a precursor to a federal army, bringing armed resistance groups under a central command.

And on September 7, the NUG declared a nationwide “people’s defensive war” against the military junta, calling on all citizens across the country to join in a “necessary revolution for building a peaceful country and establishing a federal union.”

Now, we face a critical juncture in our revolutionary journey, and I worry that the people’s strength and unity may diminish if we cannot continue to build trust and maintain communication between the predominantly Burman resistance groups and ethnic nationalities.

For the revolution to succeed, we must continue our efforts to come together over a shared vision that benefits not only the Burman majority, but also promotes the self-determination and rights of other ethnic people within the country.

The NUG must do its utmost to engage with the country’s diverse ethnic communities and place non-Burmans in leading roles, and its PDF must join forces with ethnic armed organisations and sincerely commit to their political objectives.

It is also imperative that the NUG initiate a national apology process for the atrocities and inhumane treatment committed by successive governments towards minorities, including the Rohingya.

The majority must create an inclusive platform and collaborate with all ethnic people to build together a new federal democracy based on freedom, justice and equality.

By: Thet Swe Win
Credit: aljazeera.com

UN chief urges united action to prevent Myanmar catastrophe

Antonio Guterres

The UN chief’s urgent call for a united international and regional response indicates that with ASEAN’s slow movement, Guterres feels it is time for broader international action as well

The United Nations chief is urging unified regional and international action to prevent the crisis in Myanmar from becoming a large-scale conflict and multi-faceted catastrophe in the heart of Southeast Asia and beyond.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in a report to the U.N. General Assembly circulated Wednesday that the opportunity to prevent the army from entrenching its rule could be narrowing and said it is urgent that regional and international countries help put Myanmar back on the path to democratic reform.

When Myanmar’s army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, it claimed with scant evidence that the general election her party won last November in a landslide was marred by widespread fraud. The takeover almost immediately sparked widespread street protests that security forces tried to crush. The pushback has left more than 1,100 people dead, according to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and right groups.

The United Nations has supported a five-point plan adopted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Myanmar, that calls for stopping violence, constructive dialogue, appointment of an ASEAN special envoy as mediator and humanitarian aid. It took until early August for ASEAN to pick Brunei’s Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof as their special envoy, and he is reportedly still negotiating with the military on the terms of a visit.

In the report, Guterres welcomed Yusof’s appointment, called for timely and comprehensive implementation of the five-point consensus to facilitate a peaceful solution, and strongly encouraged ASEAN to work with the U.N. special envoy.

His urgent call for a united international and regional response indicates that with ASEAN’s slow movement, Guterres feels it is time for broader international action as well.

The risk of a large-scale armed conflict requires a collective approach to prevent a multi-dimensional catastrophe in the heart of Southeast Asia and beyond, the secretary-general said. Grave humanitarian implications, including rapidly deteriorating food security, an increase in mass displacements and a weakened public health system compounded by a new wave of COVID-19 infections require a coordinated approach in complementarity with regional actors.

He said it is imperative to restore Myanmar’s constitutional order and uphold the results of the November 2020 election. He suggested neighbouring countries could leverage their influence over the military to have it respect the will of the people and to act in the greater interest of peace and stability in the country and region.

Guterres said the international and regional effort must be accompanied by the immediate release of Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other government officials as well as immediate humanitarian access and aid, especially to vulnerable communities, including some 600,000 Rohingya Muslims still in northern Rakhine state and the more than 700,000 who fled a 2017 military crackdown and are now in camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

The report, covering the period from mid-August 2020 to mid-August 2021, said that since the military takeover, security forces have engaged in wide-ranging brutal repression, especially of those protesting Suu Kyi’s ouster, sparked a political crisis with wide implications for the region, and carried out serious human rights violations.

Those expressing opposition to the military and joining democratic movements, as well as their relatives and associates, have been subject to arbitrary killings and detentions, disappearances, night raids, intimidation and torture, Guterres said. There have also been numerous reports of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by the security forces.

Between February 1 and late July, he said, there have been at least 150 instances in which security forces reportedly used lethal force against unarmed protesters.

Guterres said students and education staff have been primary targets of repression, pointing to reports by the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation that at least 70 students and five teachers have been killed by security forces, that 775 students and 76 teachers have been detained, and that more than 125,000 teachers and 13,000 school staff in higher education institutions have been suspended or dismissed.

The secretary-general said there have also been numerous reports of violence targeting security forces as well as killings of individuals suspected of collaborating with the military.

Credit: nationalheraldindia.com

Art Association brings life to land covered in red

Logansport Art Association Adviser Barb Hanlon looks through some of the work on display at the association’s exhibit on pieces from Myanmar at 424 Front St. in Logansport on Thursday.

Myanmar is a country riddled with strife and mass killings.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights organization based out of Thailand, more than 1,100 people have been killed in Myanmar (Burma) since the military took over in February.

Families sit inside their homes — many of them makeshift — and know bloodshed is just outside, said Jane Williams of the Logansport Art Association (LAA). Williams has been working with a group of Burmese artists, many of whom are either in refugee camps in Myanmar or have been released from the camps but lack freedoms available in the U.S.

The unrest of this Asian nation could dispel any notion of happiness, but this group of artists refuses to let that happen, she said, acknowledging that Fort Wayne-based Burmese artist Saw Kennedy, who was once in a refugee camp, has brought nearly 20 artists together for a cultural experience at the LAA at 424 Front St.

“He is bringing us these artists out of Myanmar to show us the better times,” Williams said of the 42 pieces on display at “The Soul of Myanmar” exhibition, which runs through Saturday, Oct. 2. While the majority are from the Asian country, others are living in Norway, Iowa and Fort Wayne.

Getting several of these pieces to Logansport was not easy. In fact, along with a variety of “creative ways” to transport them overseas, Williams said that some were smuggled out of Myanmar through PVC pipe. Many hands played a role in bringing the artwork here, she said, explaining that local resident Sunday Htoo was one of those individuals.

Showcasing the culture, history and rich beauty of the land and its people is that important, she added.

Kennedy agreed, stating in a release that “Even though we were once refugees, if we try and have confidence, if we have a strong vision of the future, and if we are passionate about our dreams, we will receive the most precious opportunity to continue working on our goals.”

His goal is to share culture and history while selling some work for the people in Myanmar. Proceeds from sales will benefit the artists who dared to share their visions of a country where peace seems constantly out of reach.

But whatever may take place in the next few days, Williams said these artists are more concerned with spreading their personal vision of a land divided.

Ko Sid’s series called “Stranger Face” depicts anger, innocence, vanity and struggle. The Yangon, Myanmar, resident stated in a description of his work that pieces are based on his emotions of the current events where people “feel less worth and kindness and more aggression.”

Those feelings are emblazoned across canvas through color highlights and strokes.

Another artist, Min San Shar of Mawlamyine, Myanmar, said that “art shapes him as a free man.”

Even as war rages on, Hei Ar Heison of Myanmar claimed that war, which has been a major part of his life, damages people. And through his art, the desire for everyone to work together has arisen.

Despite the devastation, it’s important to recognize that good can come of bad, said Williams. “Something beautiful can come out of devastation.”

That’s a lesson artist Ar Thet Oo discovered. Residing in Yangar, Myanmar, he said in an account of his work that as he paints the “beauty of poppies, (liking) the moving and dancing of the poppies … (he) realizes beauty is laced with the opium drug, and sometimes beauty contains ugly.”

And currently, that adequately describes his country.

But where bad lives, good triumphs, which is what Kennedy believes, said Williams. “Wherever you live, love what you do, try your best and you will succeed,” she said quoting her friend, claiming that’s exactly what artist Satt Aung T.T. has done.

Along with submissions for the LAA exhibit, Satt Aung T.T. also is competing in a juried show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called “Art Prize.” If he wins, he could collect $50,000.

“People need to see this (LAA) exhibit,” Williams said. “People need to see the view through the artist’s own eyes…to see the artists’ visions.”

Artists participating in the exhibit include the following: Ko Maung Win Hia, Mg Kywa Khaung, Ar Thet Oo, Co Thiee, Soe Aung, Ni Po U, Soe Htay, Ko Sid, Satt Aung T.T., Su Eaindra, Win Win, Saw Eh, Saw Poe Dah, Hei Ar Heison, Rah Nay Kaw Htoo, Ku Paw, Min San Shar and Saw Kennedy.

Activists fear for life of detained students’ union leader

Members of Aye Nandar Soe’s students’ union say they fear for her life (Supplied) 

Aye Nandar Soe was taken away on Sunday and her whereabouts are unknown

Activists say they fear for the life of a students’ union chairperson after she was detained by junta forces on Sunday afternoon while travelling on a long distance bus.

Aye Nandar Soe, 21, was stopped and arrested at the Yadanabon bridge connecting Mandalay and Sagaing regions. She leads the students’ union at the Sagaing University of Education, where she is in her fourth year of studies. 

Her friends say her whereabouts are unknown and believe she was arrested because of her opposition to the military’s February coup. Her detention comes as the junta steps up its crackdown against student and youth activists across the country. 

The junta has not made a public announcement about Aye Nandar Soe’s arrest or the grounds on which she is being detained. Many other student activists who were detained recently have been charged with incitement.  

“Our comrade Aye Nandar Soe is being detained… but we still do not know where she is being held,” the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), of which Aye Nandar Soe’s union is a member, said in a statement. 

“We fear for our comrade Aye Nandar Soe’s life and safety,” the statement said. 

An ABFSU spokesperson said he had no information about where she was travelling when she was detained.  

The military has stepped up arrests of anti-junta student activists in recent weeks, but the exact number detained is unknown, the spokesperson added.  

“Many students from the ABFSU and other students’ unions were arrested, but the ones who were not will continue to revolt against the military,” he told Myanmar Now.

On Sunday three young activists, including two members of the ABFSU, were detained in Yangon and accused of being involved in bank robberies to fund armed resistance against the junta. 

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 1,122 people have now been killed by the junta and 6,698 others are in detention. 

Credit: myanmar-now.org

In Mizoram, Myanmar’s children find refuge and school

Myanmar students in Government Thanchhuma High School in Farkawn village | Photo – Special Arrangement

Nestled in the rocky lap of Vanzang Hill, Tlanglo was a tranquil village in Myanmar’s chin state until the country’s military regime perceived it as a potential threat.

The village became a target as it is located on the road to Htantalan town, the headquarters of the Chin National Front (CNF), an insurgent group that has been waging war against the military regime.

In April this year, barely two months after it staged a bloodless coup, the army ordered people of Tlanglo and four other neighbouring villages not to venture out. A night curfew was also imposed in these villages.

It was then that Suihleipari (14) and his family and a group of other Tlanglo villagers decided to sneak to India, moving westward through mountainous jungle tracks.

After about 50 kilometres of trekking they reached Farkawn village in Mizoram on the India-Myanmar border.

“The day we left the village, I thought it was the end of my dream of becoming a teacher. I never thought I would ever get a chance to study again,” Suihleipari said.

Four months after his escape from Myanmar, Suihleipari was posing for a photo decked up in school uniform, seeking to rebuild his life in a different country.

Admitted on humanitarian grounds

Suihleipari is among the 340 students from Myanmar who have been enrolled in various schools in Tuipuiral area of Champhai district where physical classes have resumed recently.

In other districts, where classes are still being conducted online, refugee children from Myanmar are taking classes with their Mizo counterparts through mobile phones from their relief camps set up across bordering districts.

Their headcount is yet to be done.

The enrolment followed the Mizoram government’s August 31 directive to all district education officers and sub-divisional education officers to admit Myanmarese children in local schools.

Mizoram education minister Lalchhandama Ralte said the decision was taken “purely on humanitarian grounds” in accordance with the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act.

“Children aged between 6 and 14 years belonging to disadvantaged communities have the right to be admitted to school in a class appropriate to his or her age for completing elementary education,” says the education department’s circular sent to district officials.

“I like my new school. I am enjoying my lessons. Teachers here are very good. I would like to thank the Mizoram government for allowing us to attend schools,” Suihleipari said.

He got admission in Class 9 in Government Thanchhuma High School in Farkawn village.

PC Zirthanpuia, a teacher of the school, said that all the Myanmarese students, including Suihleipari, are “very determined to fully utilise the opportunity” they got to study again.

The refugee students are also provided books and uniform from the government, the teacher said.

Of the 340 students accommodated in different schools in 21 villages in Champhai district, 194 are enrolled in the primary section, 118 in the middle schools and 14 in the high schools. Besides 14 children are studying in the pre-primary section.

Refugees flow in

Zirthanpuia said the number of refugee students might go up in the bordering district as there has been a fresh influx from across the border following recent reports of escalation of violence in Myanmar.

Already over 20,000 refugees, including chief minister of Chin state Salai Lian Luai and over a dozen legislators, have taken shelter in bordering districts of Hnahthial, Champhai, Lunglei and Lawngtlai and other parts of Mizoram since the military junta dislodged the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.

It is difficult to ascertain the exact number as many refugees are left unrecorded as they are living with their families on this part of the border, said state planning board vice chairman H Rammawi, who is closely dealing with the refugee problem.

Lalnunpuia Changthu, a resident of Cherhlun village in Lunglei district, said there has been a fresh spurt in influx of refugees since September 10.

He said many villagers from Myanmar even came in small boats crossing Tiau river.

The Young Mizo Association (YMA) and local villagers are now constructing additional relief camps for the new entrants, Changthu said.

Fresh violence

Myanmar is witnessing a renewed spurt in violence since the National Unity Government (NUG) and the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) called for an armed resistance to the military regime in early September.

The NUG is a shadow underground government formed by a group of elected lawmakers and members of parliament ousted in the coup.  The PDFs were formed by common people as resistance groups to defend the junta’s offensives against civilians.

Many ethnic insurgent groups such as the CNF have allied with the NUG to “topple” the military regime.

Mizo villagers construct relief camps in Cherhlun village for Myanmar refugees | Photo – Special Arrangement

The CNF’s armed wing, the Chin National Army (CNA), and the volunteers of the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) formed by civilians overran a military outpost at Chin state’s Thantlang near Myanmar’s border with India, killing 12 junta soldiers, on September 10, according to media reports in Myanmar.

Nearly all the 8,000 residents of the mountaintop town of Thantlang in Chin State have fled after junta forces retaliated with vengeance, randomly opening fire on the residential area using heavy weapons and explosives, burning down several houses, reported Burmese website, the Irrawaddy.

The clash triggered a fresh influx of refugees from Myanmar to Mizoram, prompting the state chief minister Zoramthanga to prod the Centre to provide humanitarian assistance to Myanmar nationals.

Mizoram’s lone Lok Sabha member C Lalrosanga and OSD to chief minister Rosangzuala met Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and Intelligence Bureau (IB) director Arvind Kumar in New Delhi on September 22 to apprise them of the “humanitarian crisis” and sought aids for the refugees, according to a Mizoram government communiqué.

Urgent action needed: UN

Since the coup, more than 1,120 people have been killed, a UN human rights report said on Thursday (September 23). The report said military authorities have also arrested over 8,000 people, and at least 120 have reportedly died in custody.

Urgent action is needed to prevent the situation in Myanmar from escalating into a “full-blown conflict”, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned in her report presented at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“The murder of a Baptist minister and bombing of homes in Thantlang, Chin State are the latest examples of the living hell being delivered daily by junta forces against the people of Myanmar. The world needs to pay closer attention. More importantly, the world needs to act,” said UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews in a tweet.

Earlier a Human Rights Watch report said: “The junta has arbitrarily detained thousands of protesters, activists, journalists, lawyers, doctors and nurses. Many have been tortured, while all risk falling ill with COVID-19 in the country’s squalid and already overcrowded prisons.”

“The junta has shut down hospitals and targeted medical professionals, leading to a collapse of the health system as COVID-19 surges across the country. They have arrested journalists reporting on the crackdown, closed independent media and effectively shut down the internet and phone service after almost daily images appeared showing soldiers and police firing into peaceful crowds,” the report added.

By: Samir K Purkayastha, Ezrela Dalidia Fanai
Credit: thefederal.com

Rohingya Repatriation: Int’l community urged to take concrete actions

MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

Global leaders and international organisations need to play a more active role to compel Myanmar to make arrangements for the Rohingyas to return

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has called on the international community including the UK to take concrete actions for creation of a conducive environment in Myanmar for sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland in Rakhine State.

Lord Ahmad, the British State Minister for Foreign Affairs for South Asia, United Nations and the Commonwealth met the Foreign Minister at the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh in New York recently and discussed various issues including the Rohingya crisis. 

In the meeting, the issue of climate change was also discussed.

Foreign Minister Momen suggested that Bangladesh as the President of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the UK as the President of COP26 might jointly hold an event on the sidelines of COP26 in Glasgow. 

Foreign Minister Momen also apprised Lord Ahmad of the steps taken by Bangladesh in the area of mitigation and adaptation. 

He suggested that the private sector of the UK could invest in different environment-friendly projects in Bangladesh, including in electrification of the conventional railway. 

Lord Ahmad appreciated the proactive leadership role of Bangladesh in the area of climate change.  

Credit: dhakatribune.com