SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - More than 22,000 people from mainly Muslim communities have been forced to flee their homes in western Burma, the UN said Sunday, after a fresh wave of violence and arson that left dozens dead.
Whole neighbourhoods were razed in last week's clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state, which has cast a shadow over the country's reforms and put further strain on relief efforts in the region.
Some 75,000 people are already crammed into overcrowded camps following clashes in June.
The United Nations chief in Yangon, Ashok Nigam, said government estimates provided early Sunday were that 22,587 people had been displaced and 4,665 houses set ablaze in the latest bloodshed.
"These are people whose houses have been burnt, they are still in the same locality," he said indicating that thousands more who had fled in boats towards the state capital Sittwe may not be included in that estimate.
"It is mainly the Muslims who have been displaced," he said, adding that 21,700 of those made homeless were Muslims.
The latest fighting has killed more than 80 people, according to a government official, bringing the total death toll since June to above 170.
In Minbya, one of around eight townships hit by the fighting, a senior police official said that more than 4,000 people, mainly Muslims, had been made homeless after hundreds of properties in six villages were torched.
"Some victims are staying at their relatives' houses, some are in temporary relief camps, they are staying near those burnt areas," he said, adding that a heightened security presence had prevented further clashes.
"They are staying between Muslims and Rakhine people," he said.
Festering animosity between Buddhists and Muslims have continued to simmer in Rakhine since June. It is seen as presenting a serious challenge to Burma's new quasi-civilian government, which has ushered in a series of reforms since replacing a feared junta last year.
Zaw Htay, an official from the office of President Thein Sein, said there had been no new clashes since Saturday. Under a state of emergency imposed after the June unrest, security had been tightened across Rakhine state but the new violence had "occurred in unexpected areas", he said.
He said police were hunting "manipulators" behind the unrest.
"We are giving this issue particular attention for the sake of national security," he said.
Authorities are trying to provide emergency relief to those affected as a first priority, followed by giving them shelter and health care.
"Generally speaking, the situation is under control. The primary concern now is to make sure the problem of the refugees does not increase," Zaw Htay said.
Nigam, who has just returned from a visit to affected areas, said the UN was concerned both about the potential for a further spread of violence and the fact that it would be "more challenging" to reach the displaced in remote areas.
He said the UN had already started mobilising to take food and shelter to displaced communities, "but we will quickly need more resources".
Around 6,000 people had arrived in Sittwe seeking shelter in camps on the outskirts of the city that are already packed with Muslim minority Rohingya following June's unrest, a state spokesman said Saturday.
Overstretched local authorities said they were looking to relocate them to another area.
Human Rights Watch on Saturday released satellite images showing "extensive destruction of homes and other property in a predominantly Rohingya Muslim area" of Kyaukpyu.
The images show a stark contrast between the coastal area as seen in March this year, packed with hundreds of dwellings and fringed with boats. In the aftermath of the latest violence, virtually all structures appear to have been wiped from the landscape.
Burma's 800,000 Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh by the government and many Burmese – who call them "Bengalis". They face discrimination that activists say has led to a deepening alienation from Buddhists.
The stateless group, speaking a Bengali dialect similar to one in Bangladesh, have long been considered by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet.
Bangladesh said on Sunday it had mobilised extra patrols along its river border with Myanmar but no boats carrying Rohingya had tried to cross.
Other Muslims in Rakhine state have also been swept up in the latest violence, activists said.
"It is not just the Rohingya who are targeted, it is Muslims in general, particularly Kamans, who are a recognised minority and have the citizenship," said Chris Lewa, head of the Arakan Project which campaigns for Rohingya rights.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — More than 40 Chinese set themselves on fire in just two years in desperation at being evicted from their homes, a new report has revealed.
An investigation by Amnesty into forced evictions uncovered the worrying new trend, as a rising number of protesters resorted to extremes either to hold onto their homes or win greater compensation for the loss of their land.
The spate of self-immolations began in November 2009 in the central city of Chengdu. A new road was being planned and it ran through the home of 47-year-old Tang Fuzhen.
As demolition workers beat her family, she climbed onto the roof, doused herself in petrol and set herself on fire in protest. She died 16 days later.
In the wake of her protest, five professors from Peking university, China's most elite college, called for China to change its land seizure regulations.
Mrs Tang's act opened the door for other immolations up and down the country, culminating in an incident last month in Liaoning province, where Wang Shujie, a 36-year-old farmer in Panjin, was shot dead by police after setting himself on fire in protest at the seizure of his rice paddy.
Mr Wang and his family had been involved in a ten-day standoff with the authorities, who again wanted to build a road through his land.
The government has said that his family illegally blocked bulldozers and threatened workers. His father, who was injured in the incident, is under house arrest.
"It was shocking to us to see this trend rising," said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty's senior director of research. "The thing that came out was that in many of the cases the individuals had suffered some violence at the hands of the state, and in some cases had acted violently themselves."
The 41 cases that were documented by Amnesty between 2009 and 2011 were spread across China but happened mostly in the countryside, Ms Duckworth said. She added that eight of the protests had been fatal.
All land in China is owned by the government, and land sales have become a vital part of local government revenues. Local officials often sell parcels of land to property developers who then evict whoever is living on the site.
These forced evictions are one of the biggest sources of discontent in China, especially since developers do not, by law, need to agree compensation with home owners before they start building work.
Ms Duckworth said Amnesty's study had found a link between local governments with significant debts to pay off and protests over forced evictions. The report also highlighted that a number of home owners had been killed during altercations with demolition crews or gangs of thugs hired by developers.
She added that the self-immolations had been driven by desperation and desire for attention. "There is this belief that there is a vanishingly small chance of the criminal justice system delivering anything," she said. "But if they can get some attention to their case from the local press, there is a better chance of getting some sort of resolution. And this is the extreme end of that attempt to attract attention."— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)— A British Cabinet minister apologised to police after shouting abuse at an officer guarding Downing Street. Sun newspaper reported that Conservative Party’s Chief Whip, swore at the police officer after stopping him from leaving through the gates on his bicycle. The Sun quoted the minister who said "Open this gate, I'm the Chief Whip. I'm telling you - I'm the Chief Whip and I'm coming through these gates."
Earlier the Police Officer tried to direct the Chief Whip to leave through the side gate which he refused. As the Sun reported he had to leave through the side gate after being threatened to be arrested under the Public Order Act. The minister later on challenged the paper’s version of events and issued a statement admitting "I did not treat the police with the respect they deserve".
He added "On Wednesday night I attempted to leave Downing Street via the main gate, something I have been allowed to do many times before. I was told that I was not allowed to leave that way. While I do not accept that I used any of the words that have been reported, I accept I did not treat the police with the respect they deserve."
He said he had apologised to a supervising sergeant over the matter and would also apologise to the police officer involved. The Labour shadow minister Yvette Cooper said "These are appalling reports. No one should treat police officers or public servants in this way. And the idea that a Cabinet Minister could behave like this towards police officers doing their job is an utter disgrace. Downing Street clearly have a lot of questions to answer. They must make clear exactly what happened, including what was said and whether the deeply offensive language reported was used. How can a Chief Whip hope to do his job or instill respect when he behaves like this and can't even keep his cool?"
A former public order intelligence officer with the Metropolitan Police Graham Wettone, told Sky News it was "incorrect for anyone to abuse uniformed officers when they are doing their duty and doing their job" He added that opening the main Downing Street gates, used by cars, for pedestrians "poses a significant security risk".
Other Labour party ministers used social networking site Twitter to comment on the incident. Jim Murphy, shadow minister tweeted: "Some of these Tories are foul mouthed spoilt little brats and now one caught by The Sun". Whilst Labour peer and former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott wrote: "The problem with Andrew Mitchell is he confuses Downing Street with Downton Abbey # plebgate".—www.shafaqna.com/English
By Abbas Hamrang
Source: Sky News,Yahoo news
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Syrian rebels have been pushed out of a strategic district in the commercial capital of Aleppo, but sporadic fighting has continued in other parts of the city.
Diplomats at the United Nations, meanwhile, indicated on Thursday that Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, could be named next week to replace Kofi Annan as the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria.
Also on Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appointed Wael al-Halki, the country's health minister, as Syria's new prime minister. Halki replaces Riad Hijab, who fled to Jordan and defected to the opposition earlier his week.
In Syria, rebels in the Aleppo district of Salaheddin, a southern gateway to the city, said that they were forced to retreat under heavy fire.
"There have been some withdrawals of Free Syrian Army fighters from Salaheddin," rebel commander Abu Ali said. Others said the main frontlines in the area, which had been held by rebels for more than a week, were now deserted.
Rebels said clashes continued in the district and that, while the government had at least 80 tanks stationed in various parts of Aleppo, the military appeared reluctant to engage in close combat, preferring to use helicopters and fighter jets.
Sheikh Tawfiq, commander of the Nur al-Din Zinky brigade based on 15th street in Salaheddin, said the army's formidable weaponry was offset by apparently faltering morale.
"At the 10th street front line we are face-to-face with the army and can hear them make orders on their radios. We hear their commanders give orders to soldiers to advance and they keep urging them to, but the soldiers don't and are hesitant."
State television said: "Our special forces have cleansed Salaheddin district of terrorists."
State media reported that the government offensive in Aleppo had taken place on several fronts, including a neighbourhood near the airport in southeast Aleppo, several eastern districts, and a town on Aleppo's northwestern outskirts, state media said.
Despite the violence, the Red Cross delivered food and medical supplies to Aleppo, the first time one of its aid convoys managed to enter the city in several weeks.
Kassem Saadeddine, a spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army, said that the rebel withdrawal "does not mean we are leaving Aleppo. We have military plans to fight in the city, but we cannot reveal them".
'No winner in Syria'
As the battle for Aleppo raged, Iran called on Thursday for "serious and inclusive" negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition. Iran made the appeal after a gathering of diplomats from like-minded states in Tehran for talks on the conflict.
"There will be no winner in Syria," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement read by a UN representative to the conference in Tehran.
"Now, we face the grim possibility of long-term civil war destroying Syria's rich tapestry of interwoven communities."
William Hague, the British foreign minister, on Friday announced that his country was offering $7.8 million in aid to the Syrian rebels. He said that none of the money would be used for weapons.
The UK will also be intensifying its contacts with Syrian opposition political figures as well as with the Free Syrian Army, he said.
Diplomats at the UN, meanwhile, indicated on Thursday that the official announcement regarding the appointment of Brahimi as the UN-Arab League envoy would be made early next week.
Brahimi was the UN envoy in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks and in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion.
Kofi Annan, a former UN secretary-general, said he was leaving the post because of the lack of international support for his efforts to end the 17-month Syria conflict, in which rebels say more than 20,000 people have been killed.
Annan is staying in his post until August 31.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — The death toll from landslides and floods in Japan has risen to at least 20. Around 260,000 people living in the area have been ordered to evacuate, and 140,000 more were advised to leave their homes on the southwestern island of Kyushu.
Most of those killed lost their lives in landslides in and around the town of Aso, situated on the foot of a volcano in Kumamoto prefecture, one of the island’s four prefectures affected by the disaster. Many of the casualties were elderly people unable to leave their houses as water levels rose rapidly.
Two hundred and sixty thousand people in the north of the island have now been ordered to leave their houses. They were instructed to go to designated shelters such as schools and other public facilities. Some 140,000 others were also advised to leave their houses to avoid jeopardizing their lives.
Television footage showed streets and land masses awash with streaming muddy water carrying pieces of debris.
Up to 181 landslides occurred in the Fukuoka prefecture, damaging 820 houses and washing away three bridges, Hiroaki Aoki, the prefecture’s spokesman, stated.
“Two men were rescued from landslides but their conditions were not immediately available. One woman was still trapped,” he said. “I don’t remember any flooding which stretched over such a wide area in our prefecture.”
A riverside drive-in restaurant in the Yamakuni prefecture was inundated up to the roof, though water levels later subsided.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency expects more floods and landslides as severe showers continue to batter the island. Rainfall of up to 4.3 inches (11 cm) an hour was registered on Saturday. Heavy rains have been battering the southern island of Kyushu since Thursday.—www.shafaqna.com/english