Myanmar’s military rulers have accused the ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi of illegally accepting $600,000 and 11kg of gold.
The allegation is the strongest yet leveled by the military since it overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s democratic leadership on February 1.
No evidence was provided. A lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party denied the allegation.
Meanwhile a UN human rights investigator accused the military of committing “crimes against humanity.”
Thomas Andrews told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that Myanmar was currently being “controlled by a murderous, illegal regime” which was likely perpetrating “widespread” and “systematic” killings, torture and persecution.
His claims were supported by the rights group Amnesty, which accused the military of going on a “killing spree”.
Thomas Andrew also called for sanctions on junta leaders and on the military-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, which is set to reach $1 billion in revenue this year.
The US has already announced 10 coup leaders including Myanmar’s acting president, and three companies.
At least seven more people were killed by security forces on March 11, taking the total death toll to more than 70. Witnesses said some protesters had been shot in the head.
Six of those deaths took place in the central town of Myaing.
Meanwhile, a senior official said the military had been “exercising utmost restraint” and accused the protesters of violent behavior.
The accusation that she accepted $600,000 in cash and 11kg of gold was made by a former chief minister of Yangon, Phyo Mien Thein, who said he had given her the payments, junta spokesman Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said. The anti-corruption committee was investigating, he added.
Gen. Zaw Min Tun also accused President Win Myint and several cabinet ministers of corruption.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD won a landslide victory in the polls last year, but the military now claims the election was fraudulent.
Independent international observers have disputed the military’s claim – saying no irregularities were observed.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been held for the past five weeks at an undisclosed location and faces several charges including causing “fear and alarm”, illegally possessing radio equipment, and breaking Covid-19 restrictions.
According to a recent research, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has the world’s most generous people.
The CAF World Giving Index 2016 found that people in Iraq are the kindest to strangers, while Myanmar’s residents give the most away.
In the last month, eight in 10 Iraqis have helped someone they don’t know, with Libyans helping almost as many.
During the same period, 91% of those in Myanmar have given money to charity.
Image source Charities Aid Foundation
In comparison, 63% of Americans – the second most generous overall – have donated money, with 73% helping a stranger.
The annual ranking places Myanmar at the top of the list for the third year in a row, with more than half the population donating time and 63% helping a stranger.
The report said the generous giving reflected the practice of “Sangha Dana”, where Myanmar’s Theravada Buddhist majority donate to support those living a monastic lifestyle.
The overall table, which takes into account financial donations, help offered to strangers and volunteering, ranks the UK as the most generous place in Europe, the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East, Kenya in Africa and Guatemala in Latin America.
China is named as the least generous country.
However, the poll only takes into account the responses of 1,000 people on average in each of the 140 countries, and the Charities Aid Foundation acknowledges there is margin for error.
However, it is the kindness of Iraqis and Libyans to complete strangers in the face of years of conflict and terrible violence which stands out in the list.
Myanmar’s government has signed on October 15 what it says is a nationwide ceasefire deal with eight armed ethnic groups.
The signing ceremony in Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw, was the culmination of two years of peace talks.
However, the most active rebel groups – seven of the 15 groups involved in negotiations – stayed out of the deal.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been engaged in armed conflict with various groups seeking greater autonomy since independence from the British in 1948.
The government hopes today’s deal will be the first step on a path to a lasting political settlement.
Among the groups which have not signed are the largest armed group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), whose Kachin Independence Army (KIA) controls large areas of north-eastern Kachin state and regularly clashes with the Burmese army.
Political discussions are now due to begin within months on the structure of a new, and likely more federal, system of government.
However, there are still concerns that peace with the groups signing the agreement could be short lived, if the Burmese army ignores the ceasefire, as it has with others.
Earlier this week, all of the groups signing were removed from the government’s list of “unlawful associations”, a step towards bringing them into mainstream politics.
The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Peace Council, the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), the Chin National Front (CNF), the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) were removed from the list on October 13.
They joined three other armed groups removed on October 12: the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), and the Karen National Union (KNU) – Myanmar’s oldest armed group, which has been fighting for nearly seven decades.
The seven groups which have not signed are not far behind, and have agreed a draft deal, negotiators said.
Many of Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups have long demanded greater autonomy, or outright independence, from central government, which is dominated by the Burmese majority.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has previously urged rebel groups to focus more on a lasting deal than a quick one, was not at the signing ceremony.
State media had reported that representatives from the European Union, India, China, Japan, and the United Nations would be at the signing.
Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to begin her first visit to China on June 10, at a time of tension between the two countries.
Aung San Suu Kyi will meet President Xi Jinping and PM Li Keqiang, but no other details have been provided.
Relations between Myanmar (also known as Burma) and China have cooled in recent years, partly because of violence near their mutual border.
Myanmar has been fighting rebels in its eastern Kokang region, which borders China’s Yunnan province.
China is concerned about violence spilling over the border. At least five people in Yunnan died in March when an aircraft from Myanmar dropped a bomb on a sugar cane field.
China sent patrols to the border in response.
The Chinese government department handling Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit would not be making any details of the trip public nor inviting media, other than state media, to any events.
This visit is meant to improve ties between Myanmar’s opposition leader and China but she will be closely watched for various issues.
Many are already calling on Aung San Suu Kyi to recognize her similarities to fellow Nobel Peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo during her visit.
Chinese dissident and writer Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”.
While Myanmar’s military junta was under Western sanctions and Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest, China remained a loyal ally.
Since reforms were introduced in 2011, the government of President Thein Sein has allied itself closely with the US, although China continues to help develop major infrastructure projects in Myanmar.
Given the possibility that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party will do well in upcoming elections, Beijing is determined to put pragmatism first and build a relationship with a woman whose politics it deplores, she adds.
As head of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to play a key role in the presidential elections this November.
Aung San Suu Kyi is unlikely to run for president, however, as a clause in the constitution blocks her from standing because her husband and children are foreign citizens.
Two migrant boats holding more than 200 people have been rescued in Myanmar’s waters near the border with Bangladesh.
It was the first such rescue by Myanmar which has faced strong criticism for not doing enough to aid those stranded at sea and stem the migrant crisis.
Most are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar, while others are economic migrants from Bangladesh.
More than 3,000 migrants have landed in neighboring Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, which have offered aid.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, said the migrants were rescued on May 22.
Photos posted on the information ministry’s Facebook page showed scores of bare-chested men crammed in the hull of at least one boat.
The posts referred to the migrants as “Bengalis” – Myanmar’s term for Rohingya Muslims – and said the boats were in Bangladeshi waters off Myanmar’s Rakhine state, waiting for more to arrive in smaller vessels.
The government has promised humanitarian assistance to those who have suffered at sea, but ministers have stressed that only verified Myanmar citizens will be allowed to stay.
The rescue came after Myanmar officials met Malaysian and Indonesian foreign ministers, and the US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on May 21 to discuss the situation.
Malaysia also began searching for migrant boats on May 22, a day after PM Najib Razak announced that they would conduct rescue missions.
Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to stop towing boats out to sea and will provide temporary shelter to those who have landed. Thailand only said it would stop rejecting boats.
Solar Impulse 2 has left Myanmar for China on the fifth leg of its round-the-world flight.
The solar-powered plane, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, left Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) just after 3AM local time on Monday, March 30, and is heading for Chongqing in China.
The intention is to make a brief stop there, and then try to reach Nanjing on the east coast of China.
This would set up Solar Impulse 2 for the first of its big ocean crossings – a five-day, five-night flight to Hawaii.
Mission control will not make a decision on the Nanjing leg until late on Monday, March 30.
The decision may rest on the state of the energy reserves held in the plane’s batteries.
China’s air traffic authorities would like the team to start the sixth leg before dawn. But if the reserves are marginal then Solar Impulse will be held in Chongqing until the batteries can be charged.
The problem with this scenario is that poor weather is forecast in the Chongqing region in the coming days, and if Solar Impulse does not leave straightaway, it could be delayed for perhaps a week.
Solar Impulse 2 took off from Mandalay International Airport in darkness at 03:36 local time, on March 30. Leg five is a long one – about 1,375km – and is expected to take roughly 19 hours.
It would see Solar Impulse landing around midnight local time at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport.
It is 20 days since the venture got under way from Abu Dhabi.
The Swiss-based project expects the circumnavigation of the globe to be completed in a total of 12 legs, with a return to the Emirate in a few months’ time.
Bertrand Piccard is sharing the flying duties in the single-seater plane with his business partner, Andre Borschberg.
In the past month, Solar Impulse 2 has set two world records for manned solar-powered flight.
The first was for the longest distance covered on a single journey – that of 1,468km between Muscat, Oman, and Ahmedabad, India.
The second was for a groundspeed of 117 knots (135mph), which was achieved during the leg into Mandalay, Myanmar, from Varanasi, India.
No solar-powered plane has ever flown around the world.
The Solar Impulse 2 venture does however recall some other recent circumnavigation feats in aviation – albeit fuelled ones.
In 1986, the Voyager aircraft became the first to fly around the world without stopping or refueling.
Piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, the propeller-driven vehicle took nine days to complete its journey.
Then, in 2005, this time was beaten by the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, which was solo-piloted by Steve Fossett.
A jet-powered plane, GlobalFlyer completed its non-stop circumnavigation in just under 3 days.
Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan of 72m – bigger than that of a 747 jumbo jet airliner – but only weighs 2.3 tonnes.
Its four propellers are dependent on the electricity from 17,000 solar cells that line the top of the wings.
During the night, the props’ motors must call on the excess energy generated and stored during the day in lithium-ion batteries.
Solar Impulse 2 is in the air again, crossing India and hoping to make it to Myanmar on March 19.
The solar-powered plane attempting to fly around the world, with Andre Borschberg at the controls, took off from Ahmedabad at 07:18 local time.
Solar Impulse 2 is heading to Varanasi in India’s Uttar Pradesh region, where it will make a short “pit stop” before pushing on over the Bay of Bengal.
The leg to Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) will be flown by Bertrand Piccard.
The two pilots are taking it in turns to guide Solar Impulse 2 on its circumnavigation of the globe.
So far, they have covered about 2,000km in two segments since beginning the adventure in Abu Dhabi.
It will likely be another five months before they return to the United Arab Emirates, having crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process.
Today’s take-off was delayed by almost two hours because of customs issues.
The roughly 1,100km from Ahmedabad to Varanasi is the third leg of the mission and should take Borschberg about 15 hours to complete.
The team will then lay over for a few hours before taking off for Mandalay.
This fourth leg is longer – about 1,500km – and has some tricky conditions to negotiate.
“In Varanasi, we can expect to have foggy mornings, which could be a problem for an early take-off,” explained Christophe Beesau, who works on flight strategy.
“And for leg four, of course, we will cross the Bay of Bengal. This may be challenging because we have often at altitude an important wind, and, on the other hand, due to air traffic control restrictions, we have to keep the track.
“We know that we will have to adjust carefully the flight profile to avoid this problem.”
About two hours before landing in Mandalay, Solar Impulse 2 will have to fly over a big range of mountains up to 3,000m in height.
It will aim to get this done before sunset so that it can then gently descend towards the Myanmar city in the dark.
The Solar Impulse project has already set plenty of world records, including the greatest distance covered in a single solar-powered flight.
This was the 1,468km attained on leg two from Muscat in Oman to Ahmedabad.
The wingspan of the vehicle is 72m, which exceeds that of a 747 jumbo jet airliner. It does, however, only weigh 2.3 tonnes.
Its light weight will be critical to its success over the coming months.
The Pacific and Atlantic crossings will require Solar Impulse 2 to fly non-stop for several days at a time.
President Barack Obama has met Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon.
At a news briefing with the US president, Aung San Suu Kyi has said constitutional rules which bar her from running for president because her sons are half British are “unfair, unjust and undemocratic”.
She said the reform process in the once military-ruled nation had hit a “bumpy patch”.
Aung San Suu Kyi said it could be brought on track with international help.
President Barack Obama said the reforms were “by no means complete or irreversible”.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, moved from military to civilian rule in 2010 and is governed by a military-backed civilian administration.
Under Thein Sein, many political prisoners have been freed and media restrictions eased. The pro-democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent years under house arrest, has rejoined the political fold and holds a small block of seats in parliament.
President Barack Obama has met Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon
Critics have warned that reforms have stalled in recent months, as all eyes turn to 2015 when the next general election will be held.
A clause in the new constitution states that anyone whose spouse or children are foreign citizens cannot run for the top job. Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and her two sons are British citizens.
Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters outside her home: “I always warn against over-optimism, because that could lead to complacency.
“Our reform process is going through a bumpy patch, but this bumpy patch is something we can negotiate with commitment, with help and understanding from our friends around the world.
“What we need is a healthy balance of optimism and pessimism.”
Barack Obama was in the Burmese capital, Nay Pyi Taw, on November 13 for an Asian summit where he held talks with President Thein Sein.
He said the process of reform was “by no means complete or irreversible” and added that the US “recognizes the challenges ahead and cannot be complacent”.
“I don’t understand a provision that would bar someone from running for president because of who their children are. That doesn’t make much sense to me,” he said.
Aung San Suu Kyi said the Burmese people supported the opposition’s call to amend the clause, but added: “I don’t think it’s because they want me to be president, but because they recognize it’s unfair, unjust and undemocratic.”
Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a landslide victory in the by-elections in 2012. It did not contest the November 2010 general election because of laws it said were unfair.
Barack Obama said he and Aung San Suu Kyi had discussed ways of bolstering Myanmar’s transition.
Barack Obama said Burma is on a “remarkable journey” of reform that has much further to go, on his first visit to the South East Asian nation by a serving US president.
A desire for change had been met by an agenda of reform, he said, and he was there to extend a “hand of friendship”.
But, in a speech at Rangoon University, Barack Obama urged Burmese people to accept Muslim Rohingyas after recent violence.
Crowds of people, some waving US flags, lined the streets as he arrived.
The visit was intended to show support for the reforms put in place by Thein Sein’s government since the end of military rule in November 2010.
Activists have warned that the visit may be too hasty – political prisoners remain behind bars and ethnic conflicts in border areas are unresolved.
On Monday another prisoner amnesty was announced, with about 50 of the 66 inmates freed reportedly political detainees. About 200 political prisoners remain behind bars, activists say.
Barack Obama spent about six hours in Burma and did not visit the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.
The highlight of his visit was a speech at Rangoon University, which was at the heart of pro-democracy protests in 1988 that were violently suppressed by the military regime.
Addressing students, he said America would help to rebuild Burma’s economy and could be a partner on its journey forward.
Referring to his 20 January 2009 inauguration speech in which he pledged the US would extend a hand to any country that was willing to unclench its fist, he said: “Today I’ve come to keep my promise and extend the hand of friendship.
“But this remarkable journey has just begun, and has much further to go.
“Reforms launched from the top of society must meet the aspirations of citizens who form its foundation. The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished.”
He called for an end to communal violence between Muslims and Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine that has left more than 100,000 people displaced. They are mostly Muslim Rohingyas who are stateless and face severe discrimination in Burma.
“National reconciliation will take time, but for the sake of our common humanity, and for the sake of this country’s future, it is necessary to stop the incitement and to stop violence,” he said.
Earlier Barack Obama met Thein Sein, saying the reform process “here in Myanmar… is one that can lead to incredible development opportunities”.
He used the country name preferred by the government – US officials described the move as a “diplomatic courtesy” but not a policy shift.
Barack Obama met Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the lakeside home where she spent years under house arrest
Barack Obama then met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the lakeside home where she spent years under house arrest. She thanked the US for its support but warned that difficult times could lie ahead.
“The most difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight,” she said, saying people should not be “lured by a mirage of success”.
The US president and his team also made a brief stop at Shwedagon Pagoda, the Rangoon landmark that has been at the heart of many key moments in the country’s history.
Barack Obama was accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who was returning to Burma almost a year after her first visit.
Thein Sein’s government came to power after widely criticized polls in November 2010 that saw military rule replaced with a military-backed civilian government.
Since then – to the surprise of many – his administration has embarked on a reform process. Many – but not all – political prisoners have been freed, censorship has been relaxed and some economic reforms enacted.
Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest shortly after the polls. Her NLD party, which boycotted the elections, has since rejoined the political process. It now has a small presence in parliament after a landslide win in by-elections deemed generally free and fair in April.
In response to the reforms, many Western nations have relaxed sanctions against Burma and begun a process of engagement.
But rights groups have cautioned against a rush to embrace the South East Asian nation, warning that political prisoners remain behind bars and ethnic conflicts are unresolved.
After visiting Burma, Barack Obama headed to Cambodia to join a meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations, in a trip that underlines the shift in US foreign policy focus to the Asia-Pacific region.
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