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Myanmar activists call for civil disobedience on second anniversary of coup

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Myanmar activists call for civil disobedience on second anniversary of coup

Myanmar democracy activists called for businesses to close nationwide on Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of the coup that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, with the junta hinting it may extend a state of emergency and delay new elections.

The military justified its power grab on February 1, 2020, with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in the elections Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.

Western powers launched a fresh broadside of sanctions against the generals on the anniversary, but previous rounds have shown little sign of throwing the junta off course.

Protesters in commercial hub Yangon draped banners on several bridges calling for people to join the “revolution” on Wednesday, images published by local media showed.

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Activists have called for people across the country to close businesses and stay off the streets from 10 am (0330 GMT) to 4 pm.

“I made fewer snacks today and all are sold out now,” a vendor in Yangon told AFP, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“People rushed to buy since early morning. There will be a silent strike… We don’t want to miss it.”

A pro-military rally of “patriots, military lovers, monks and the public” was set to march through the streets of downtown Yangon.

The US embassy in the city has warned of “increased anti-regime activity and violence” in the days around the anniversary.

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A junta-imposed state of emergency was due to expire at the end of January, after which the constitution states that authorities must set in motion plans to hold fresh elections.

The military was widely expected to announce on Wednesday that it would prepare for the polls.

But on Tuesday, the junta-stacked National Defence and Security Council met to discuss the state of the nation and concluded it “has not returned to normalcy yet”.

Junta opponents, including the anti-coup “People’s Defence Forces” (PDF) and a shadow government dominated by lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had tried to seize “state power by means of unrest and violence”, the council said.

The “necessary announcement will be released” on Wednesday, it added, without giving details.

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‘Barbaric’ campaign

The United States, Canada and Britain announced a new round of sanctions on the anniversary, targeting members of the junta and junta-backed entities.

Myanmar’s former colonial ruler Britain targeted, among others, companies supplying aviation fuel to the military and enabling its “barbaric air raiding campaign in an attempt to maintain power”.

Australia also announced its first sanctions, aimed at 16 members of the junta “responsible for egregious human rights abuses” and two sprawling, military-controlled conglomerates.

US sanctions also targeted the junta-approved election commission, which last week gave political parties two months to re-register, in a sign the military appeared to be going for fresh polls.

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But with armed resistance raging across swathes of the country, analysts say people in many areas are unlikely to vote — and run the risk of reprisals if they do.

A United Nations special envoy said Tuesday that military-run elections would “fuel greater violence, prolong the conflict and make the return to democracy and stability more difficult”.

More than 2,900 people have been killed in the military’s crackdown on dissent since it seized power and more than 18,000 have been arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

The junta recently wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of Suu Kyi, jailing its longtime enemy for a total of 33 years in a process rights group have slammed as a sham.

“The main wish for 2023 is we want freedom and to go back home,” Thet Naung, an activist in northern Sagaing region where the military and anti-coup fighters have regularly clashed, told AFP.

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“We have gone through many difficulties. We wanted to be happy and live freely but we lost everything. We have spent most of our time in jungles and stayed away from cities.”

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

 The African National Congress and its largest rival, the white-led, pro-business Democratic Alliance, agreed on Friday to work together in South Africa’s new government of national unity, a step change after 30 years of ANC majority rule.

Once unthinkable, the deal between two sharply antagonistic parties is the most momentous political shift in South Africa since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the 1994 elections that marked the end of apartheid.

“Today, South Africa is a better country than it was yesterday. For the first time since 1994, we’ve embarked on a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to a new government that will be different from the previous one,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a televised address.

“From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration,” he said, adding that multi-party government was the “new normal”.

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The ANC lost its majority for the first time in an election on May 29 and has spent two weeks locked in intensive behind-the-scenes talks with other parties, which came down to the wire on Friday morning as the new parliament was convening.

The DA’s entry into national government is a big moment for a country still processing the legacy of the racist colonial and apartheid regimes. The party has struggled to shake off its image as a defender of rich white people and convince a broad spectrum of South Africans that it reflects their aspirations.

Two smaller parties, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party and the right-wing Patriotic Alliance, will also take part in the unity government, they said. 

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Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

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Hamas' armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that two Israeli hostages held in Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah a few days ago.

The group, in a video posted on its Telegram channel, did not release the names of those said to have been killed or provide any evidence.

The Israeli government “does not want your hostages to return, except in coffins,” the al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza’s al-Nuseirat on June 8. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

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The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. 

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base on Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.

The confluence of Russian, Canadian and U.S. vessels in Cuba – a Communist-ruled island nation just 160 km (100 miles) from Florida – served up a reminder of old Cold War tensions and of current fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war.

However, both the U.S. and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting “high-precision missile weapons” training in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called “a port visit…in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba.”

A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as “routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries”, adding it was “unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships.”

Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union and tensions with Washington over Communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow, which has maintained ties with Havana, has questioned the apparent nervousness of the West over the warships this week. 

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