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Myanmar opposition secures 536 parliamentary seats

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Yangon: Myanmar’s opposition party, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), has so far secured 536 parliamentary seats in the country’s general election.

Of the 536 seats, 179 are in the House of Representatives (Lower House), 77 in the House of Nationalities (Upper House) and 280 in the Region or State Parliament, according to the Union Election Commission (UEC), reported Xinhua news agency.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party had a total of 51 seats, including 17 in the Lower House, four in the Upper House and 30 in the Region or State Parliament.

The UEC has so far announced 627 elected parliament representatives. The election result will continue to be released by the UEC on a daily basis.

The UEC on Wednesday announced that Suu Kyi had won the general election and was re-elected as a representative to the House of Representatives of the next parliament.

The NLD said in a press release on Wednesday that Myanmar President U Thein Sein had offered congratulations on the party’s success in polls.

Suu Kyi on Wednesday called for a meeting with President U Thein Sein, Parliament Speaker U Shwe Mann and Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing for holding dialogue next week.

In her separate letters to the three ruling figures, Suu Kyi said the dialogue aimed to peacefully satisfy the desire of the people expressed through Sunday’s general election.

(IANS)

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Over 7,000 people granted National Verification Cards (NVC) in Rakhine State of Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi has prioritized three main tasks for Rakhine - repatriation of refugees who have crossed over to Bangladesh and providing humanitarian assistance effectively; resettlement and rehabilitation; and bringing development and lasting peace to the region

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Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia.

Myanmar, October 29, 2017 : More than 7,000 people have been granted national verification cards (NVC) in Myanmar’s Rakhine since an authentication process started on October 1, authorities said on Sunday.

The process is one of the recommendations proposed by an advisory commission on the state, led by former UN chief Kofi Annan, reports Xinhua news agency.

Using biometric methods for the national identity system, the process is being carried out in areas where stability returned to normalcy, U Aung Min, director of the Rakhine State Immigration and Population Department, said.

National verification process is the first step toward scrutinizing citizenship in accordance with the 1982 Citizenship Law, the officer said, urging local people to hold national verification cards as long as they live in Myanmar under the 1949 and 1951 Union Citizenship Acts.

Meanwhile, Myanmar has formed nine private sector task forces to join the mechanism of Union Enterprises for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development (UEHRD) in Rakhine, chaired by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

ALSO READ UN Report on Rohingya Hunger Crisis Suspended on Order of Myanmar Government

The newly established mechanism aims to allow the government and all local and international organizations to work in all sectors and all strata of society for the development of the state.

Suu Kyi prioritised three main tasks for Rakhine – repatriation of refugees who have crossed over to Bangladesh and providing humanitarian assistance effectively; resettlement and rehabilitation; and bringing development and lasting peace to the region.

The government is also ready to implement a national verification and repatriation process in accordance with agreed criteria set out in a joint statement between foreign ministries of Myanmar and Bangladesh in 1992. (IANS)

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Myanmar’s Rohingya Insurgency issues detailed list of demands this week that struck a far more pragmatic note

A detailed list of demands was issued this week that struck a far more pragmatic note while describing the use of violence in the past as self-defense

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Rohingya refugees collect aid supplies including food and medicine, sent from Malaysia, at Kutupalang Unregistered Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb. 15, 2017, VOA

Yangon, March 30, 2017: The Rohingya Muslim insurgency, whose sneak attacks in October killed nine border guard officers in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, issued a detailed list of demands this week that struck a far more pragmatic note while describing the use of violence in the past as self-defense.

Ata Ullah, the commander of the Faith Movement, now rebranded as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), signed the March 29 list, which has been verified and seems to have been timed to the anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi’s first year in power. Arakan is another name for Rakhine.

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A new presentation

In a preamble to the 20 demands, the ARSA said it does not associate with any terrorist organizations, eschews attacks against civilians and religious minorities, and wants to state “loud and clear” that its “defensive attacks” are only aimed at the “oppressive Burmese regime.” They said they would support international peacekeeping troops in the state.

Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won elections in late 2015 and swore in its president, Htin Kyaw, one year ago today. Suu Kyi, barred from the presidency by the 2008 military-drafted constitution, assumed the roles of foreign minister and state counselor. But the military still controls 25 percent of parliament and three key ministries.

By far the most polished and level-headed presentation of the group’s goals, the list stands in stark contrast to grainy YouTube videos posted in the days after the attack, which showed men holding guns and reading off declarations in a forest hideout.

Among other things, the demands include calls for political representation, citizenship rights, access to relief aid, education opportunities, freedom of movement and religion, the return of property, the ability to participate in trade and commercial activities, and the return of Rohingya refugees.

“It’s significant they deny connections to terrorist organizations, deny targeting civilians, and speak mostly of rights-based objectives,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of the NGO Fortify Rights, in an email. “We have no evidence that the group is well-trained, well-financed, or well-organized, but it’s clear they aren’t going anywhere.”

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Muslim insurgencies began in 1940s

Since Myanmar became independent in 1948, Muslim insurgencies in Rakhine have emerged under different political contexts over the decades, a reflection of self-determination sought by members of other faiths and ethnic groups across the country. Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as one of its many ethnic groups, denies them citizenship and has pushed them out of the political sphere.

The International Crisis Group said in a report last year that the Faith Movement was formed around 2012 after inter-communal violence in Rakhine killed hundreds and sent more than 120,000 Rohingya into IDP camps in the state capital Sittwe, where they remain today. Its leaders are centered in the Rohingya diaspora in Saudi Arabia, the report said.

Accusations of atrocities

As part of the hunt for militants in the wake of the October attacks, Myanmar’s armed forces have been accused of numerous atrocities, including rape and arson. An estimated 1,000 people have been killed.

The government has vehemently denied the more serious of the accusations, but mounting testimonies pushed the United Nations Human Rights Council to green light a fact-finding mission last week. It is not clear whether the U.N. will gain access.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, and the area of the state where the attacks occurred remains under lockdown except for rare visits and supervised tours.

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A hard line by the Myanmar military

Zaw Htay, a spokesman for the president’s office, did not immediately return requests for comment on the Rohingya demands. But Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief, Min Aung Hlaing this week gave an indication of how the government will view the demands of the ARSA and the prospect of a U.N. probe.

At the annual Armed Forces Day in the capital Naypyitaw, the general called the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

“We have already let the world know that we don’t have Rohingya in our country,” he said, according to reports of his speech.

Two senior U.N. officials working among the Rohingya refugees said more than 1,000 Rohingya might have been killed during the four-month security operation. However, Myanmar presidential spokesman Zaw Htay has previously said fewer than 100 people had been killed during the operation. (VOA)

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Israeli Parliament bars entry of pro-Palestinian activist from Britain

The statement said Lanning's organisation leads a campaign for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel

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chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) Hugh Lanning, Wikimedia

Jerusalem, March 13, 2017: A week after the Israeli parliament approved a law banning entry of foreigners who call for boycotting Israel, Jerusalem on Monday said an anti-occupation activist from Britain was denied entry into the country.

Hugh Lanning, chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), was barred from entering Israel at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, late on Sunday, according to a joint statement by the Population and Immigration Authority and the Strategic Affairs Ministry, Xinhua reported.

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The statement said Lanning’s organisation leads a campaign for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

“The organisation (PSC) works in cooperation with other organisations that work to delegitimise Israel in order to advance boycotts and other activities against Israel,” the statement said.

“In addition to advancing boycotts, Lanning maintained ties with the heads of Hamas in Gaza,” the statement added.

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Last Monday, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, approved a law to enable authorities to bar entry of foreign nationals who have publicly supported the BDS campaign.

First launched in 2005, the Palestinian-led campaign calls for ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel seized in 1967, and acknowledging the Palestinians refugees’ right of return to their pre-1948 lands. (IANS)