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Cabinet clears revised cost for Myanmar-northeast sea-road route

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New Delhi: The union cabinet on Wednesday approved the revised cost estimate for a multi-modal transit transport project passing through Myanmar that will provide an alternate access route to India’s northeastern states.

“The union cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Wednesday gave its approval for the revised cost estimate of Rs 2,904.04 crore (about Rs 29 billion) for the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project in Myanmar,” an official statement said.

“The project will provide an alternate access route to the northeastern region of India and contribute towards the region’s economic development. Being a key connectivity project, it will promote economic, commercial and strategic links between India and Myanmar,” it added.

The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project was jointly identified by India and Myanmar to create a multi-modal mode of transport for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar as well as to the northeastern part of India through Myanmar.

This project, which will connect Sittwe port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border, apart from opening up the sea route for the products, will also provide a strategic link to the northeast, according to the statement.

The project, when completed, will first link the Kolkata port to the port of Sittwe in Myanmar across the Bay of Bengal, a distance of 539 km.

From Sittwe, the route will continue over river Kaladan to the western Myanmarese town of Paletwa, 158 km away.

Paletwa will then be connected to the India-Myanmar border by a 110-km-long road.

The international border will then be connected by road to the town of Lawngtlai in Mizoram 100 km away where National Highway 54 passes by.

The project includes construction of an integrated port and inland water transport (IWT) terminal at Sittwe, development of a navigational channel along river Kaladan in Myanmar from Sittwe to Paletwa, and construction of a highway transshipment terminal at Paletwa.

This apart, the project also envisages construction of six IWT barges – each of 300 tonnes capacity – for transportation of cargo between Sittwe and Paletwa.

In 2009, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) was appointed the project development consultant by the ministry of external affairs, the nodal agency for India. On the Myanmar side, the ministry of foreign affairs is the nodal agency.

Construction work at Sittwe in Myanmar started in December 2010 but problems arose over underestimation of the road length on the Myanmar side and plans to construct hydro-electric projects on tributaries of the Kaladan river.

Though the project was earlier scheduled to be completed in 2014, Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh said last year that it would now be completed by 2016.

When completed, the route will provide a viable alternative to the existing overstretched route via Siliguri in West Bengal, popularly known as the Chicken’s Neck.

(IANS)

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Facebook ‘Too slow’ in Fighting Hate Speech in Myanmar

Facebook said it is working with a network of independent organisations to identify hate posts

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Facebook faces $1.63 bn in EU fine over fresh data breach. VOA

The ethnic violence in Myanmar is horrific and we have been “too slow” to prevent the spread of misinformation and hate speech on our platform, Facebook acknowledged on Thursday.

The admission came after a Reuters investigation on Wednesday revealed that Facebook has struggled to address hate posts about the minority Rohingya, the social media giant said the rate at which bad content is reported in Burmese, whether it’s hate speech or misinformation, is low.

“This is due to challenges with our reporting tools, technical issues with font display and a lack of familiarity with our policies. We’re investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence that can proactively flag posts that break our rules,” Sara Su, Product Manager at Facebook, said in a statement.

According to Facebook, in the second quarter of 2018, it proactively identified about 52 per cent of the content it removed for hate speech in Myanmar.

“This is up from 13 per cent in the last quarter of 2017, and is the result of the investments we’ve made both in detection technology and people, the combination of which help find potentially violating content and accounts and flag them for review,” said Facebook.

Facebook said it proactively identified posts as recently as last week that indicated a threat of credible violence in Myanmar.

“We removed the posts and flagged them to civil society groups to ensure that they were aware of potential violence,” said the blog post.

Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

In May, a coalition of activists from eight countries, including India and Myanmar, called on Facebook to put in place a transparent and consistent approach to moderation.

The coalition demanded civil rights and political bias audits into Facebook’s role in abetting human rights abuses, spreading misinformation and manipulation of democratic processes in their respective countries.

Besides India and Myanmar, the other countries that the activists represented were Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, Syria and Ethiopia.

Facebook said that as of June, it had over 60 Myanmar language experts reviewing content and will have at least 100 by the end of this year.

“But it’s not enough to add more reviewers because we can’t rely on reports alone to catch bad content. Engineers across the company are building AI tools that help us identify abusive posts,” said the social media giant.

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Not only Myanmar, activists in Sri Lanka have argued that the lack of local moderators — specifically moderators fluent in the Sinhalese language spoken by the country’s Buddhist majority — had allowed hate speech run wild on the platform.

Facebook said it is working with a network of independent organisations to identify hate posts.

“We are initially focusing our work on countries where false news has had life or death consequences. These include Sri Lanka, India, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic as well as Myanmar,” said the company. (IANS)