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Myanmar’s military government grants amnesty to 1,600 prisoners | Prison News

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Myanmar’s military government has started releasing more than 1,600 prisoners to mark the Southeast Asian nation’s traditional New Year festivities, but no political detainees have been freed despite the country’s ruling general promising to restore peace this year.

Among those imprisoned by the military are opposition party leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is held in the capital Naypyidaw, and her Australian economic policy adviser, Sean Turnell, who is in the notorious Insein Prison facility on the outskirts of Yangon.

Myanmar has been under military rule since February of last year, when the army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 13,282 people have been arrested and 1,756 killed by the military since it launched its coup in February 2021, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), an activist group.

Relatives wait in front of the Insein Prison for the release of prisoners in Yangon on April 17, 2022 [AFP]
Relatives wait in front of Yangon’s Insein Prison for the release of prisoners on April 17, 2022 [AFP]

The military takeover has been met with massive resistance, which has since turned into what some United Nations experts have characterised as civil war.

“As part of the celebration of Myanmar’s New Year, to bring joy for the people and address humanitarian concerns,” Lieutenant General Aung Lin Dwe, a state secretary of the military government, said that “1,619 prisoners, including 42 detained foreigners, will be released under the amnesty”.

The foreign prisoners will be deported from Myanmar after their release, he wrote in a statement.

Myanmar Prisons Department Spokesman Khin Shwe said that those released were mostly drug offenders and petty criminals.

This New Year’s amnesty was a fraction of the one a year ago, when 23,000 people were freed from jails.

Political prisoners held as hostages

Relatives of hundreds of prisoners gathered outside Yangon’s Insein Prison on Sunday after the announcement was made, but many did not know if their relatives or loved ones would be released, according to a local reporter.

The mother of a 22-year-old pro-democracy protester arrested eight months ago said she was waiting after her son wrote to her and said he might be released in the amnesty.

Another mother, whose police officer son was arrested for participating in the civil disobedience movement against the military, said she had waited outside the prison several times during previous amnesty periods.

“I have a feeling he will be freed today,” she said.

It was unclear whether the amnesty would include any of the jailed members of the civilian government overthrown in the coup.

Tun Kyi, a senior member of the Former Political Prisoners Society, said that political detainees are held as hostages by coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

It was not surprising if political prisoners were not released, because the general sees people who oppose his government as criminals and intends to crush them, Tun Kyi said.

“He knows the political prisoners will oppose him again if they were released,” he said.

 

This year’s holiday celebrations in Myanmar, which are carried out over several days, were muted as opponents of military rule called for a boycott of government-supported activities.

Myanmar’s military has been carrying out full-scale offensives against militias and ethnic rebel groups in the countryside as well as urban guerrillas active in the cities.

Opponents of the military have established their own parallel shadow government. Its acting president said in his New Year speech that citizen militias and allied armed forces of ethnic minorities now control most of the country’s rural areas.

“I’m happy to report to you on this auspicious Myanmar New Year that our resistance forces and ethnic armed forces are now controlling much of the country, particularly rural areas, as well as positions around several major cities,” Duwa Lashi La, acting president of the self-styled National Unity Government, said Saturday.

It is impossible to confirm claims of control over territory by either side in the conflict in Myanmar.

However, repeated major offensives by the military indicate there are security problems in many areas of the country.



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Is a new strategy needed to fight armed groups in the Sahel? | Conflict

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Video Duration 24 minutes 45 seconds

From: Inside Story

Mali pulls out of the regional G5 Sahel force, blaming a lack of progress and disagreements.

A founding member of a multinational West African security alliance is pulling out.

Mali is withdrawing from the G5 Sahel joint force fighting armed groups linked to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda.

The military government blamed a lack of progress and internal divisions.

It also accused a country outside of the region of trying to isolate Mali, without providing details.

With France, Germany and the European Union reducing their involvement in Mali, who’ll be left to look after security in West Africa?

Presenter: Mohammed Jamjoom

Guests:

Niankoro Yeah Samake – Malian politician and president of the Party for Civic and Patriotic Action

Emmanuel Kwesi Aning – Director of research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre

Jacques Reland – Senior research fellow at the Global Policy Institute



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European energy giants set to keep buying Russian gas | Oil and Gas News

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The European Union’s guidelines appear to allow the continent’s energy giants to keep buying Russian gas without breaching sanctions.

By Bloomberg

European energy giants are pressing ahead with plans to keep buying Russian gas as the European Union’s guidelines appeared to allow them to do so without breaching sanctions.

Even as conflicting messages continued to emerge from Brussels over the legality of complying with Moscow’s demands to pay for gas in rubles, Italy’s Eni SpA said it was opening a ruble account to keep the gas flowing.

It’s the clearest sign yet that the biggest European importers of Russian gas are counting on business as usual. Germany’s Uniper SE and Austria’s OMV AG also expect to find a way to keep buying.

Moscow’s demand on March 31 that gas payments should now be made in rubles threw markets and policy makers into disarray and companies have been scrabbling ever since for a way to keep the crucial energy flowing without breaching sanctions aimed at weakening Russia in its war in Ukraine. The move has divided the bloc, with Poland and Bulgaria quick to reject Moscow’s demands — and have their gas cut off as punishment.

Share of natural gas imports coming from Russia, 2020 |

The bloc has issued two sets of guidance on the matter so far, both of which allow room for interpretation. There’s still nothing in writing from the Commission that explicitly stops companies from paying Gazprom PJSC in a way that the Russian company has indicated would be satisfactory.

Gas prices fell on Monday as the latest Brussels missive to member states stopped short of banning companies from opening bank accounts in rubles. Then on Tuesday, European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said that opening an account in rubles would go beyond the recommendations and constitute a breach of sanctions. Gas prices rose, before easing back again after Eni said it was pressing ahead.

“Anything that goes beyond opening an account in the currency of the contract with Gazprombank and making a payment to that account and then issuing a statement saying that with that you consider you have finalized the payment contravenes the sanctions,” Mamer said.

The issue has divided the bloc, with Poland outraged at the EU’s reluctance to set out clear red lines. In the opposite camp, Prime Minister Mario Draghi went as far as to say that it was a gray area when it came to sanctions. And enforcing sanctions is a matter for member states, rather than the bloc.

“There is no official pronouncement of what it means to breach sanctions,” he said. “Nobody has ever said anything about whether ruble payment breach sanctions.”

(releads)

–With assistance from Vanessa Dezem, Jonathan Tirone, Alberto Nardelli and Jerrold Colten.



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EU set to approve new military aid for Ukraine | Russia-Ukraine war News

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Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell says bloc set to approve another 500 million euros ($527m) in military aid for Ukraine.

European Union defence ministers are set to approve another 500 million euros ($527m) in military aid for Ukraine, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said.

“We have to continue to support the Ukrainians with arms, that’s why we will pull 500 million euros more” from the European Peace Facility, Borrell told reporters on Tuesday on the way to the meeting of EU defence ministers.

The new tranche of military support would bring the bloc’s military aid to 2 billion euros ($2.1bn).

Borrell also expressed support for Finland and Sweden’s requests to join NATO and hoped the alliance would be able to overcome Turkey’s objection to the bids.

According to Borrell, the two countries will “receive strong support from all member states because it increases our unity and makes us stronger”.

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht and her Luxembourg counterpart Francois Bausch argued both countries belonged in NATO “because of the values that they are defending”.

Sweden has signed a formal request to join NATO, a day after the country announced it would seek membership in the 30-member military alliance.

Legislators in Finland have formally approved Finnish leaders’ decision to join as well.

The moves by the two Nordic countries, ending Sweden’s more than 200 years of military non-alignment and Finland’s non-alignment after World War II, have provoked the ire of the Kremlin.

While most NATO members are keen to welcome the two countries as quickly as possible, Turkey has potentially complicated their accession by saying it cannot allow them to become members because of their perceived inaction against exiled Kurdish fighters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday doubled down on comments last week indicating that the two Nordic countries’ path to NATO would be anything but smooth.

He accused the two Nordic countries of refusing to extradite “terrorists” wanted by his country.

“Turkey has opposition to this. Turkey says that the two harbour terrorism, that they have supporters of the PKK and the Kurdish nationalists living in their countries. This is something that throughout the week is going to be a big issue,” Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays reported from Brussels.

“We understand that the Turkish foreign minister and the US secretary of state are going to meet in New York in the coming days but how can this issue be overcome?”

Turkey is a NATO member. All 30 NATO countries must agree to open the door to new members.

Sanctions against Russia stalled

The EU has been unable to agree on its sixth package of sanctions against Russia – which includes asset freezes and travel bans on prominent supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The plan outlined earlier this month by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen included an embargo on Russian oil imports to come into effect at the end of 2022.

The sanctions against Russia target individuals including Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as banning the export of luxury goods, and coal imports, and excluding Russian and Belarusian banks from using the SWIFT international payment system.

However, Hungary, which is nearly completely dependent on Russian oil, is holding up an EU-wide embargo that requires unanimity from the 27 member states.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has likened the oil embargo to an atomic bomb hitting his country’s economy.



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