Tuesday April 23, 2019
Home Lead Story U.S. Presiden...

U.S. President Donald Trump To Address The Nation Regarding The Shutdown

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers missed a paycheck last week and are set to miss another next week.

0
//
USA, Trump
During a training drill, a Customs and Border Protection official stops the flow of northbound traffic at entrance to the San Ysidro port of entry, Jan. 10, 2019, seen from Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump says he will make a major announcement about the government shutdown and border security during an address to the nation Saturday.

Trump said the announcement from the White House will take place at 3 p.m. Eastern Time and will address “the humanitarian crisis on our southern border.”

A standoff between Democrats and Republicans over funding for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border has led to a government shutdown, which is 29-days-old Saturday.

Trump has called for more than $5 billion in taxpayer funding for the wall, while Democrats have offered more than $1 billion in new money for border security, but none specifically for a wall.

Democratic sources say the money will be included in a packet of spending bills the House will consider next week: $524 million to improve ports of entry and $563 million to hire more immigration judges.

USA, trump
This Jan. 14, 2019, photo released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows some of 376 Central Americans arrested in southwest Arizona for crossing into the United States illegally. They used holes dug under a barrier to cross in multiple spots. VOA

Shutdown travel dispute

The dispute over the wall and the government shutdown also led to a dispute between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her plans to travel to Afghanistan.

Pelosi accused the White House on Friday of leaking information about her planned trip to fly commercially to Afghanistan after Trump denied Pelosi the use of a military plane for the trip.

Pelosi said it was “very irresponsible on the part of the president” to release details about her sensitive travel plans, which the State Department said significantly increased the security threat on the ground.

The White House denied leaking Pelosi’s flight plans.

USA, trump
An Air Force bus waits on the plaza of the Capitol after President Donald Trump used his executive power to deny military aircraft to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just before she was depart to visit troops abroad, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 17, 2019.. VOA

Trump on Thursday revoked the use of a military plane for Pelosi and Democratic members of Congress to fly to Afghanistan to visit U.S. troops and to Brussels to meet with NATO allies. It was the latest maneuver in a bitter political battle over the shutdown, which is now the longest such government stoppage in U.S. history.

In a letter to the speaker, the president said that “in light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.”

A spokesperson for Pelosi’s office said the trip would have provided “critical national security and intelligence briefings” as well as served as an opportunity for Pelosi to thank the troops.

The speaker’s office said, “In light of the grave threats caused by the president’s action, the delegation has decided to postpone the trip so as not to endanger our troops or security personnel.”

The president’s letter did not directly address Pelosi’s call Wednesday for Trump to delay his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address until government funding was restored and the shutdown ended.

Wall, trump
Construction crews install new border wall sections, Jan. 9, 2019, seen from Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

“This is completely inappropriate by the president,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters outside Pelosi’s office Thursday. “We’re not going to allow the president of the United States to tell the Congress it can’t fulfill its oversight responsibilities.”

No end in sight to shutdown

The back-and-forth between the White House and the speaker indicated there was no end in sight to the standoff.

“While many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to make a deal, Speaker Pelosi won’t let them negotiate,” Trump said in a speech at the Defense Department. “Hopefully, Democrat lawmakers will step forward to do what is right for our country, and what’s right for our country is border security at the strongest level.”

Democrats insist they will negotiate stronger, more effective border security measures once the government reopens, but that a border wall would be wasteful, ineffective and a blight on America’s image.

Pelosi, the top-ranking congressional Democrat, said Trump’s “insistence on the wall is a luxury we can no longer afford.”

USA, Trump
A National Park entrance fee collection service is temporarily suspended at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, the lowest point in North America, during the partial U.S. government shutdown, in Death Valley, California, U.S., Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

Later Thursday, Trump also canceled a planned trip by a U.S. delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The delegation, consisting of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and presidential assistant Chris Liddell, was scheduled to travel next week.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president wanted to make sure “his team can assist as needed” during the government shutdown.

Workers missing paychecks

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers missed a paycheck last week and are set to miss another next week.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he will make a major announcement about the government shutdown and border security during an address to the nation Saturday.

Also Read: Partial Shutdown of US Delays Space Missions, But NASA Not Grounded

“Not only are these workers not paid, they are not appreciated by this administration,” said Pelosi. “We should respect what they do for their country.”

Pelosi’s move on the State of the Union drew sharp criticism from Senate Republicans.

“By disinviting POTUS for SOTU, Pelosi erased any pretext for her unwillingness to negotiate an end to the shutdown. It is personal, petty and vindictive,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas tweeted Thursday. (VOA)

Next Story

More And More Women Join The Arakan Army’s Fight Against Myanmar’s Central Government

“Only after we pass that step will we be able to achieve the goal of a federal union that guarantees equality among all ethnic groups,” she said

0
Army
Female Arakan Army recruits train with their male counterparts in northern Myanmar's Kachin state in an undated photo. RFA

The Arakan Army, which is battling the Myanmar military for autonomy in turbulent Rakhine state, has grown in both force strength and firepower since its formation in 2009 to the level that the rebel group can now launch successful offensives on police or military outposts. And its message is drawing as many young female recruits as men.

After hundreds of Arakan fighters carried out deadly attacks on police outposts in northern Rakhine in early January, striking on Myanmar’s Independence Day, hostilities between the two sides escalated, prompting the government to brand the Arakan Army, commonly referred to as the AA, a terrorist group and to order its troops to eliminate it.

So far this year, the AA and Myanmar forces have engaged in more than 100 battles in Rakhine state.

The AA, which draws most of its recruits from ethnic Rakhine Buddhists who support its mission, has trained with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), another ethnic armed group that has fought government forces in Kachin and northern Shan states, at KIA headquarters in the remote mountainous town of Laiza, with AA soldiers playing a supporting role in those regions.

The AA engaged in its first real clash with Myanmar Army troops in March 2015 near Rakhine’s Kyauktaw township. It was one of three ethnic armies excluded from the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA), which eight ethnic organizations signed, later that year.

Ethnic armies are known to exaggerate their member numbers, and AA leaders have refused to divulge the exact number of soldiers in its ranks. A January report on women in ethnic armies by the Norway-based Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), however, put the total number of both male and female AA troops at 1,000, while another report published the same month by the online journal The Irrawaddy put it at 7,000.

Like the national military and other ethnic armies in Myanmar, the AA is focusing its recruitment efforts on signing up young women to fortify its ranks and prepare them for future combat to fulfill the AA’s mission of self-determination for ethnic Rakhine people in Rakhine state.

There are now as many young women as there are male recruits training at a military facility in Laiza in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state near the border with China, signaling growing support for the rebel army among Rakhine civilians as the conflict intensifies.

Most of the young women training there are about 20 years old. RFA’s Myanmar Service has given them aliases because they declined to be identified by name while speaking on the record during a recent reporting trip to Kachin state, citing security and other reasons.

‘We want self-governance’

The female soldiers say they have been motivated to join the AA by the rebel force’s credo that armed revolution is the only way to achieve ethnic Rakhines’ goals of self-governance, self-determination, and equality in their state.

woman
“In the battles, they will not be spared because they are female,” he said. “They will be treated as enemies.” Pixabay

“We want self-governance,” said female recruit Hla Hla Kwye. “We can address our problems and decide what we need only when we have self-governance and self-determination. Now, it is all messed up since we are governed by others. We are discriminated against as if we are parented by a stepfather or a stepmother.”

She said she wants to deliver the “gift of independence” to her fellow ethnic Rakhines before 2020, so that they will no longer be “oppressed.”

“They will no longer be a second-class ethnic group,” Hla Hla Kwye said.

Others said they decided to join the AA to fight the ethnic-based discrimination and unfairness they face from the ethnic Bamar majority that dominates the national military and the country’s ruling, civilian-led National League for Democracy (NLD) government.

Myo Myo Thet, a female recruit who has been stationed at AA headquarters since 2018, said this unfairness has been evident in the extraction of natural resources in Rakhine state.

“When we interacted with the environment, we came to realize that we only got unfair shares of profits from natural resources extracted from our own state,” she said. “So, I learned that an armed revolution is unavoidable in order to achieve a Rakhine Nation. I then pledged to become a female Rakhine soldier.”

Many ethnic Rakhines believe they have been sold short on benefits they should have received as part of the central government’s natural resources and infrastructure deals with Myanmar’s larger neighbors China and India — namely, dual pipelines that export their state’s oil and natural gas to China and a massive transportation corridor to ship cargo from India to Rakhine’s Sittwe seaport and then on to northeast India via river and highway routes.

Other female recruits said they have been motivated to join the AA by more practical reasons, namely lack of employment opportunities — especially for women — in the impoverished and underdeveloped state.

“Before, I liked to make myself look beautiful,” said recruit Soe Soe. “I liked to eat a lot and sleep a lot. I didn’t have any employment either. We had to go to Yangon to get a job. There are no job opportunities in Rakhine state. We only have chores like cooking and carrying water.”

After she joined the AA, Moe Moe found a job and learned how to make better use of her free time.

“I’ve learned how to spend time wisely — how to spend leisure time wisely,” she said. “I’ve been able to read books. Only here, I’ve learned that I should read books.”

Training female soldiers takes two months, during which time they are also required to learn skills such as office administration, management, accounting, and sewing.

Though she’s proud of her work with the AA, Soe Soe said she is ready to return home to be with her family.

“I want to go home,” she said. “But although I’m separated from my whole family, I’m proud that I’m now working for the sake of the entire Rakhine state.”

Female Arakan Army recruits exercise as part of their training regimen in northern Myanmar's Kachin state in an undated photo.
Female Arakan Army recruits exercise as part of their training regimen in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state in an undated photo. RFA

Political negotiations

Some political analysts in Myanmar questioned why female soldiers want to get involved in armed conflict.

Retired military officer Aung Myo said Rakhine state’s problems do not stem from inequality between the Bamar majority and ethnic minorities or from racism, but have been created by the centralized administrative system practiced by successive governments.

“The ethnic minorities think they are being discriminated against, [and] they feel that they are victims of racial supremacy,” he said.

“I don’t want to judge whether their narrative is right or wrong because it is so broad,” he said. “But what we can’t disagree on is that the problems stem from the resistance to decentralization and suppression of the ethnic states’ autonomy, which have not changed up to today.”

Author Mi Sue Pwint, a member of the Women’s League of Burma, a community-based organization promoting women’s rights and participation in Myanmar politics and its peace process, said that although female soldiers are receiving necessary combat training, they may not be getting training in negotiation skills that members of armed groups need to participate in political discussions.

“They are all using the women to showcase their strength, but the real question here is how well the women are prepared and trained for political engagement,” she said, adding that the success of a democratic society, such as the one Myanmar is striving to build, will be judged in part by the extent of women’s political power.

Myanmar’s peace process, in which the national military and ethnic armed organizations are key stakeholders, is a fundamental part of the country’s transition to democracy that began in 2011. Both sides must be able to engage constructively in talks to address political problems that are the root causes of the country’s warfare in an effort to end decades of armed conflict and forge peace and stability.

“Political negotiations are the next step we need to go through,” said Mi Su Pwint, a former soldier with the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), an opposition group founded in 1988 after a series of nationwide popular pro-democracy protests and civil unrest.

“Only after we pass that step will we be able to achieve the goal of a federal union that guarantees equality among all ethnic groups,” she said.

Those involved in the peace process have an agreed-on target that women should account for 30 percent of representatives, though the actual number of female negotiators is much lower. Because women are not well represented in ethnic armed organizations, they are not offered attractive leadership positions, and the roles available to them are marginal, PRIO said it its report.

Propaganda purposes

The current trend of recruiting female soldiers primarily serves propaganda purposes rather than practical ones, Mi Su Pwint said, noting that ethnic Karen, Kachin, and Wa armed groups as well as the Myanmar military have been recruiting more women in recent years.

“In military parades such as the one on Armed Forces Day, female troops are shown as the highlight, Mi Su Pwint said. “Thus, the ethnic armed groups are doing the same thing, showcasing their own women troops at their anniversary occasions.”

“The AA has been trying to grow its base, [and] it has its own political ambitions, so I have no doubt that the AA’s public campaign policy would focus on recruiting young females because their target is within the Rakhine population,” she said.

Also Read: Press Freedom Report, China A “Festering” Black Hole When It Comes To Media2019/04/22

“Once young, educated, female Rakhines join them, it will be easier for them to persuade more people,” she said.

Aung Myo pointed to a downside of the AA’s efforts to recruit young women, saying that their involvement with the rebel force bodes ill for civilian women in Rakhine state.

“In the battles, they will not be spared because they are female,” he said. “They will be treated as enemies.”

“But the impact goes beyond the realm of real female soldiers,” he said. “Now, all women in Rakhine state will be viewed with suspicion as potential informers, AA members, or [AA] supporters. This is a completely wrong move because it drags the entire population of Rakhine women into the armed conflict.” (RFA)