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Myanmar activists plan new protests after weekend bloodshed

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: March 22, 2021)

Myanmar activists plan fresh protests on Monday including a call for vehicle convoys to drive through intersections honking horns with occupants raising three-finger anti-coup salutes despite reports of security forces killing more people at the weekend.

Media reported dawn protests in at least two parts of the commercial hub of Yangon on Monday after hundreds of people in Mandalay, including many medical staff in white coats, marched before sunrise on Sunday.

The Southeast Asian nation has been locked in crisis since the elected government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1 was overthrown by the military, bringing an end to 10 years of tentative democratic reform.

One man was shot dead and several were wounded when police opened fire on a group setting up a barricade in the central town of Monywa, a doctor there said on Sunday as a community group issued a call on Facebook for blood donors.

Later, one person was killed and another wounded in the country’s second city of Mandalay when security forces opened fire after residents tried to resist efforts by the military to set up a base in a school, the Myanmar Now news portal reported.

At least 250 people have now been killed since the coup, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.

The violence has forced many citizens to think up novel ways to express their rejection of a return to army rule.

To mark the one-month anniversary of the launch of one of the biggest demonstrations since the coup and a national strike, activists in posts on social media urged people on Monday to join a car convoy protest.

Protesters across the country staged candle-lit, nighttime protests over the weekend.

Protesters in some places were joined by Buddhist monks holding candles at the weekend and others came out later on Sunday, including in Monywa, where police opened fire.

“Sniper, sniper,” people can be heard shouting in a video clip shortly after the man was shot in the head and more shots rang out.

The spokesman for the junta was not available for comment but has previously said security forces have used force only when necessary.

State media said on Sunday that men on motorbikes attacked a member of the security forces who later died. The military said two policemen were killed in earlier protests.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN DIPLOMATIC PUSH

The junta says a Nov. 8 election won by Suu Kyi’s party was fraudulent, an accusation rejected by the electoral commission. Military leaders have promised a new election but have not set a date.

Western countries have repeatedly condemned the coup and the violence. Asian neighbors, who have for years avoided criticizing each other, have also begun speaking out.

In a sign of a new diplomatic push in Southeast Asia, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will visit Brunei Darussalam on Monday before going to Malaysia and Indonesia.

The trip comes as Indonesia and Malaysia seek an urgent high-level meeting of Southeast Asia’s regional grouping, of which Myanmar is a member, on the crisis.

Brunei is currently chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers on March 2 failed to make a breakthrough.

The military, which sees itself as the sole guardian of national unity and ruled for nearly 50 years after a 1962 coup, has shown no sign of even considering back-tracking on its seizure of power.

Coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing visited the Coco islands, one of Myanmar’s most strategically important outposts, 400 km (250 miles) south of Yangon, on Saturday and reminded members of the armed force there that their main duty was to defend the country against external threats.

Suu Kyi, 75, faces accusations of bribery and other crimes that could see her banned from politics and jailed if convicted. Her lawyer says the charges are trumped up.

Australian media reported that two Australian business consultants were detained as they tried to leave Myanmar, but it was not clear why. An Australian foreign ministry spokesperson said it was providing consular assistance but declined to comment further for privacy reasons.

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Taliban warns foreign forces to leave by May 1

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

Taliban on Wednesday afternoon warned the US and NATO to stick to the agreement of troops withdrawal on May 1 and said if the Doha agreement is not adhered to problems will be “compounded” and those in breach of the deal will “be held liable”.

In a series of tweets, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seeks the withdrawal of all foreign forces from our homeland on the date specified in the Doha Agreement.

“If the agreement is adhered to, a pathway to addressing the remaining issues will also be found.

“If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded and those whom failed to comply with the agreement will be held liable.”

This comes ahead of an expected official announcement by US President Joe Biden that troops with be pulled out by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meanwhile said in Brussels on Wednesday that the coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11.

Blinken said it was time for NATO allies to make good on its mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together.

“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.

“We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” Blinken said, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg,

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Austin arrives in Brussels ahead of troop withdrawal announcement

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Brussels on Wednesday ahead of a planned announcement by US President Joe Biden that troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11.

Reuters reported earlier that a coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11. President Joe Biden is expected to make a formal announcement later Wednesday that will end two decades of fighting.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan but still rely on U.S. air support, planning and leadership for their training mission.

NATO foreign and defense ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference. A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that no ally was expected to oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s formal announcement.

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NATO forces to leave together from Afghanistan: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

A coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels on Wednesday.

His remarks came ahead of a formal announcement of the end of two decades of fighting.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan but still rely on U.S. air support, planning and leadership for their training mission, Reuters reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels that it was time for NATO allies to make good on its mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together.

“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.

“We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” Blinken said, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg,

NATO foreign and defence ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference. A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that no ally was expected to oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s formal announcement, expected later on Wednesday, for a complete U.S. withdrawal of troops by Sept. 11.

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