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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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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

The US Coast Guard and Kiribati police boarded two Chinese fishing boats during a patrol against illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands nation’s vast exclusive economic zone this month but found no issues aboard, a coast guard official said.

The United States is seeking a bigger role for its coast guard in helping remote Pacific Islands nations monitor millions of kilometres of ocean – a rich tuna fishing ground – a move that also boosts surveillance as a rivalry with China over security ties in the region intensifies.

Reuters reported on Friday that Chinese police are working in Kiribati, with uniformed officers involved in community policing and a crime database program.

Kiribati, a nation of 115,000 residents, is considered strategic despite being small, as it is relatively close to Hawaii and controls a 3.5 million square kilometre (1.35 million square mile) exclusive economic zone. It is also host to a Japanese satellite tracking station.

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Washington has flagged plans to build an embassy in Kiribati to compete with China, but has not yet done so.

Kiribati police officers were on patrol with the US Coast Guard as “ship riders” for the first time in almost a decade, between Feb. 11-16, a US Coast Guard Guam spokeswoman said.

“The two People’s Republic of China (PRC) flagged fishing vessels were boarded as part of routine maritime law enforcement activities to ensure compliance with regulations within the Kiribati Exclusive Economic Zone,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed comments.

No concerns were reported during the boardings, she said.

“Both Kiribati officers from the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit and US Coast Guard officers were involved in the boarding operations. This collaboration underscores the partnership between the two nations in upholding maritime law and good governance,” she added.

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The Kiribati president’s office and Chinese embassy did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Kiribati’s acting police commissioner, Eeri Aritiera, told Reuters last week that Chinese police on the island work with local police.

China built a large embassy on the main island, Tarawa, after Kiribati switched ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019. 

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Russia launched 14 attack drones and a barrage of missiles at Ukraine overnight, with air defence systems destroying nine drones as well as three guided missiles over the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukraine’s air force said on Monday.

Russia also launched two S-300 missiles from anti-aircraft missile systems and one air-to-surface Kh-31P missile, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

It was not clear what happened to the missiles and drones that were not downed. 

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Tuvalu on Monday announced former attorney general and fisheries official Feleti Teo as its new prime minister, after he was elected unopposed by lawmakers in the Pacific Islands nation, officials said.

Former Prime Minister Kausea Natano lost his seat in a general election on Jan. 26 closely watched by Taiwan, China, the US and Australia, amid a geopolitical tussle for influence in the South Pacific.

Tuvalu, with a population of about 11,200 spread across nine islands, is one of three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan, after Nauru cut ties last month and switched to Beijing, which had promised more development help.

Teo received unanimous support from the 16 lawmakers, two lawmakers told Reuters on Monday.

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Teo, who was educated in New Zealand and Australia, was Tuvalu’s first attorney general. He has decades of experience as a senior official in the regional fisheries organisation and has worked with the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s major political and economic group. Fishing is a major source of revenue in the Pacific islands.

“Feleti Teo was declared by the Governor General as Prime Minister for Tuvalu,” Tuvalu’s government secretary, Tufoua Panapa, said in an emailed statement.

Tuvalu lawmaker Simon Kofe congratulated Teo in a social media post.

“It is the first time in our history that a Prime Minister has been nominated unopposed,” he said.

The election result in Tuvalu had been delayed by a month as dangerous weather stopped boats from bringing new lawmakers to the capital to vote for prime minister, highlighting why climate change is the top political issue in the Pacific Islands nation.

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Taiwan’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to Tuvalu, Andrew Lin, expressed Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s congratulations to Teo, adding that deputy foreign minister Tien Chung-kwang will visit Tuvalu in the near future.

Teo is a friend of Taiwan’s and has visited many times, and has said relations are stable and that maintaining ties is the widespread consensus in Tuvalu, the ministry added.

Taiwan previously said it was paying close attention to the election after Tuvalu’s finance minister in the previous government, Seve Paeniu, said the issue of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan or China should be debated by the new government.

There had also been calls by some lawmakers to review a wide-ranging deal signed with Australia in November, that allows Canberra to vet Tuvalu’s police, port and telecommunication cooperation with other nations, in return for a defence guarantee and allowing citizens threatened by rising seas to migrate.

The deal was seen as an effort to curb China’s rising influence as an infrastructure provider in the Pacific Islands.

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Teo’s position on Taiwan ties, and the Australian security and migration pact, have not been made public.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on social media he looked forward to working with Teo.

“Australia deeply values our relationship with Tuvalu, in the spirit of the Falepili Union,” he wrote, referring to the migration pact.

Tuvalu’s ministry would be announced at an oath taking ceremony for the new government later this week, Panapa said.

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