How a wave of disinformation is endangering Rohingya refugees in Indonesia

Dozens of photos and videos that have been either “doctored” or taken out of context so as to negatively portray Rohingya refugees have been circulating on Indonesian social media. This wave of disinformation has become so intense that the United Nations is worried about the refugees’ safety – even in Aceh province, which has, historically, been considered very welcoming. Our Observer, an Indonesian journalist who specialises in fact-checking for a publication called Mafindo, has been looking at the rise in online hate speech and fake news targeting the Rohingya.

Hundreds of protesters forced a group of Rohingya refugees to leave their temporary shelter in a parking lot in Banda Aceh, the capital of the Indonesian province of Aceh, on December 27, 2023. Videos show the protesters chanting slogans like “get them out” and threatening the frightened refugees, among them women and children. 

This footage, which was widely circulated both on social media and by media outlets, has shocked the Rohingya community and its advocates. Each year, many Rohingya arrive in makeshift boats on the beaches of this province in the far northern part of Indonesia. Up until now, they were welcomed by locals. 

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Myanmar, have long faced persecution in their country, but more than 700,000 of them fled when the Myanmar military began a violent campaign of repression in August 2017. Many of them now live as refugees in Bangladesh, often in dire circumstances. Many Rohingya have been attempting to flee the terrible situations in both Myanmar and Bangladesh by boat. 

Many of these boats are bound for Malaysia. However, few reach their target destination, whether due to poor weather conditions, overcrowding or badly equipped boats.  

Many of the boats end up coming ashore in the Indonesian region of Aceh. More than 1,600 landed there in 2023, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

However, in recent months, it seems like the Rohingyas are no longer welcome in Aceh. A group of locals rejected a boat filled with more than 250 refugees back in November 2023, forcing them back to sea and, since then, there have been other cases of the same kind of response. There have also been other reports of locals physically and verbally threatening refugees. Locals have also accused workers with the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) of being part of a human trafficking network. 

The spike in anti-Rohinyga actions is occurring alongside a rise in online hate speech and disinformation about Rohingya on social media in Indonesia. 

The number of photos and videos taken out of context to feed into a negative narrative about Rohingya refugees has exploded on Instagram and TikTok in recent months.

For example, a video that claims to show Rohingya refugees burning down a warehouse has gone viral on TikTok. We did a reverse image search on the footage (click here to find out how) to figure out when this footage first appeared online. Turns out, it actually shows a fire that took place back in 2020 in Cimahi, a town in the Indonesian province of West Java.

This is a screengrab of a video posted on TikTok. The caption, in Indonesian, says, “Rohingyas burned down this warehouse in Aceh because they weren’t given food.” © FRANCE 24 Observers

Another video, which has garnered more than 11 million views on TikTok since December, shows an enormous boat filled with passengers. The caption on the video reads: “Rohingyas are once again being transported from Bangladesh to Indonesia.” In reality, the footage shows a boat that carries out internal voyages within Bangladesh. You can see the name of the boat in the footage and, from there, we were able to find out its itinerary. It turns out that some of the footage of this boat was taken from a Bangladeshi YouTube channel.

This is a screengrab of a video published on TikTok that claims to show a boat filled with Rohingya refugees who have left Bangladesh bound for Indonesia.
This is a screengrab of a video published on TikTok that claims to show a boat filled with Rohingya refugees who have left Bangladesh bound for Indonesia. © FRANCE 24 Observers

‘Fake information linked to hate speech targets people’s emotions’ 

The Indonesian platform Mafindo investigated these two videos and uncovered their origins. Aribowo Sasmito, a journalist with Mafindo, says that there has been a sharp rise in fake information about the Rohingyas online in recent months :

Everything began with a series of TikTok videos that were made to look like they were from the UNHCR. It became so intense that the UNHCR had to speak out to say that these weren’t their videos.

In this thread posted on X, the United Nations in Indonesia warned social media users about fake information about the Rohingya published by accounts pretending to be the UNHCR. These fake accounts claimed, for example, that the UNHCR in Bangladesh gave special passes to Rohingya.


There are also more and more videos on Instagram and TikTok that paint the Rohingyas as ungrateful. 

The problem with these videos is that people allow themselves to be influenced without verifying them, especially anything that reaffirms the narrative that the Rohingya are bad.


There are common themes that emerge in these fake news items. One portrays Rohingyas as ungrateful for the help offered by Indonesians. Another common narrative is that they are all part of a human trafficking network. Another is that they are “fake” Muslims.


Because most Indonesians are very religious, faith is one of the main themes exploited by disinformation and hate speech. 

It is very difficult to dismantle fake information based on hate speech, because it targets people’s emotions. The easiest way to spread disinformation in a religious and family-orientated society like Indonesia is to integrate religion and racism into it.


Some posts compare the Rohingya refugees arriving in Indonesia with the situation in Israel and Gaza – but, in these posts, the Rohingya are portrayed as spoiling the land belonging to Indonesians. 

A fake UNHCR account, for example, seemed to claim that it was going to give the Rohingya an “empty island”. Another fake news item that is supposed to show boats filled with Rohingya refugees is captioned: “The situation in Israel is happening again here.” In actuality, however, the boats shown are Chinese fishing boats.

This is a screengrab of a video posted on TikTok that claims to show boats filled with Rohingya heading towards Indonesia. “Protect our seas from illegal Rohingya refugees,” reads the text.
This is a screengrab of a video posted on TikTok that claims to show boats filled with Rohingya heading towards Indonesia. “Protect our seas from illegal Rohingya refugees,” reads the text. © FRANCE 24 Observers

Some local NGOs are actually starting to believe this negative discourse about the Rohingya. Some of their members believe the narrative that the refugees are ungrateful and badly behaved.  

One reason for the increasingly negative view of the Rohingya in Aceh is an incident that took place in 2021 – three fishermen were imprisoned after they helped 99 Rohingya refugees trapped on a sinking boat. They were sentenced to five years in prison on human trafficking charges. There remains a sense of in injustice in Aceh and sometimes the Rohingya are blamed for this. 

In this impoverished region, the image of the refugees being “ungrateful” has spread quickly, explains journalist Sasmito :


The few isolated cases where a Rohingya refugee has been badly behaved end up being applied to the whole population. When people already have an aversion to another group, then they can be easily incited to share false information that reaffirms their beliefs.

There are also external factions that feed into this narrative, like when Indonesian president Joko Widodo said [in December 2023] that the number of Rohingya in the country had increased because of human trafficking.


In early January, a video clip that was shared more than 200,000 times made it look like the Indonesian president wanted to deport the Rohingya. But in the full speech, which was obtained by fact-checking outlet AFP factuel, Widodo doesn’t talk about deportation. He says that he wants to end human trafficking and that he is committed to providing temporary aid to the Rohingya “while prioritizing the interests of the local community”. 

‘The Rohingya have become scapegoats’  

The anti-Rohingya sentiment is also growing amid a backdrop of heightened nationalism and patriotism, with elections having been held on February 14. Chris Lewa, the president of the Arakan Project, an association dedicated to Rohingya rights, has kept a close eye on the evolution of this anti-Rohingya discourse online: 


When the first boat was prevented from landing [in November], the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a statement underscoring that Indonesia didn’t sign the 1951 Refugee Convention, which meant that they were under no international obligation to receive the Rohingya. His words have often been cited in anti-Rohingya discourse. 

However, the country does need to respect national laws [Editor’s note: which require the country to accept refugees, including a presidential decree from 2016].

Against the backdrop of presidential elections, the Rohingya have become scapegoats. 

[Faced with the rising tensions] the government said that they want to work with the UNHCR and the IOM but, in this climate, it hasn’t changed anything. Locals keep displacing the Rohingya and some of the Indonesian members of my association don’t want to go into the camps anymore. Some have even faced physical threat. It isn’t like that everywhere though, thankfully, and some villagers are still showing their support to the Rohingya refugees. 


Some journalists and analysts are speaking about what looks like a coordinated “campaign” of disinformation, but have, so far, been unable to determine who might be behind this. 

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How ‘Myanmar Witness’ proved a deadly air strike denied by state-owned medias

A number of photos and videos that circulated on social media and were picked up by pro-democracy media outlets show the aftermath of an air strike on the village of Ka Nan, in the west of Myanmar on January 7, 2024. While the state television outlet claimed that reports of the air strike were “fake news”, a visual investigation published by “Myanmar Witness” documented the attack and proved the Myanmar Air Force’s involvement. Seventeen civilians are believed to have been killed.

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A civil war between the ruling junta and armed ethnic groups has been raging in Myanmar since the military coup that took place three years ago on February 1, 2021. Human rights organisations have repeatedly denounced the Myanmar Air Force’s bombing of civilian infrastructures like churches and schools – but these air strikes continue. 

À lire aussi‘Unprecedented’ weapons seizures in Myanmar boost anti-junta resistance morale

However, these air strikes are rarely as well documented as the strike that took place on January 7, 2024 in Ka Nan. The Three Brotherhood Alliance, made up of a number of ethnic groups, has, since November 7, controlled this village located in western Myanmar near the Indian border. Since October, the alliance has been carrying out a counter-offensive and taken back several strategic areas from the Myanmar Army.  

Images of the attack on Ka Nan and lists of the names of the civilians killed started to circulate on social media in pro-democracy groups on January 7, 2024.

A photo of some of the destruction resulting from the air strike carried out by the Myanmar Army on January 7, 2024 in Ka Nan, Myanmar. The image was posted the same day on the Telegram channel of the humanitarian group “Free Burma Rangers”. © Free Burma Rangers © Free Burma Rangers


State television outlet MRTV claimed that reports of the attack were nothing but “fake news” shared by “subversive media outlets”. 

Investigators from Myanmar Witness were able to use images and videos of the attack posted online to document with precision how it unfolded. They attribute the attack to the Myanmar Army in a report published on January 30, 2024. Myanmar Witness is a project run through the ”Centre for Information Resilience”, a UK-based NGO.

À lire aussiMyanmar Witness verifies citizens’ photos and videos to document human rights concerns

How Myanmar Witness proved the involvement of the Myanmar Air Force

Fifteen seconds in to a video published by Khit Thit Media, an independent news agency in Myanmar, you can see a black mark in the sky. Then, you can hear the sound of a plane, followed by the sound of a detonation. Then, the person filming the video points the camera towards a number of injured people and shows bombed out buildings.


This video was posted on Facebook on January 7, 2024 and was filmed the same day in Ka Nan, Myanmar. © Khit Thit Media.


This video contains “open source proof” that enables investigators to determine the nature of the attack. For example, this footage proves that there were planes from the Myanmar Air Force on site, says Matt Lawrence, director of Myanmar Witness. 


In the case of the Ka Nan strike, state media claimed no aircraft flew over the area that morning. However, Myanmar Witness identified and geolocated footage of a Q-5 ground attack jet in the sky above Ka Nan village moments before the sound of an explosion. Ka Nan is within range and the flight time needed from Tada-U military airbase, where four Q-5 ground attack jets were visible on the runway shortly before the attack.  


In Myanmar, only the Myanmar Air Force has access to Chinese-made Nanchang Q-5 ground-attack aircraft, the plane visible in the video. 

There are also references to planes passing above villages located nearby on Burmese Telegram channels that follow the movements of military aircraft.

In a better quality version of the video shared by Khi Thit Media, obtained by Myanmar Witness, you can more clearly see the unique shape of a Chinese-made Nanchang Q-5 ground attack aircraft. © This photo montage was put together by Myanmar Witness. It includes a reference image from the “Blueprints” website, which has schematics of military planes.
In a better quality version of the video shared by Khi Thit Media, obtained by Myanmar Witness, you can more clearly see the unique shape of a Chinese-made Nanchang Q-5 ground attack aircraft. © This photo montage was put together by Myanmar Witness. It includes a reference image from the “Blueprints” website, which has schematics of military planes. © Myanmar Witness

Satellite images taken at 9:43am on January 7, 2024 show four Q-5 ground-attack aircraft on the runway at the Tada-U military air base, located 300 km from Ka Nan. It looks like the planes were being fuelled when the images were captured. Myanmar Witness reported that  that there is likely a connection between these planes being fuelled and the attack, which took place at 10:30am. 

Destruction of civilian infrastructure

Myanmar Witness also geolocated the buildings visible in different videos of the attack, like this church.

Here, Myanmar Witness has geolocated the Saint Pierre Church, which was damaged in the strikes, on this map of Ka Nan (23.805503, 94.143868). The team at Myanmar Witness examined a number of photos and videos of this church, which show external damage as well as blood in the interior. However, the state media outlet MRTV claimed that the church in Ka Nan was not hit during the strike.
Here, Myanmar Witness has geolocated the Saint Pierre Church, which was damaged in the strikes, on this map of Ka Nan (23.805503, 94.143868). The team at Myanmar Witness examined a number of photos and videos of this church, which show external damage as well as blood in the interior. However, the state media outlet MRTV claimed that the church in Ka Nan was not hit during the strike. © Myanmar Witness

Then, the team at Myanmar Witness compared satellite images of the village taken before and after January 7:

From high-resolution satellite imagery we found evidence of discolouration and destruction in and around Ka Nan of a nature that is consistent with an air strike – especially the areas surrounding the church and school. Comparison with imagery a few days earlier allowed us to identify the damage highly likely resulting from this specific incident.  

If you compare the satellite images of the village of Ka Nan taken between January 3 and 8, 2024, you’ll see that the surface of the buildings has changed between these two dates, a sign that the buildings have been physically altered. © Images provided by Sentinelle-2.
If you compare the satellite images of the village of Ka Nan taken between January 3 and 8, 2024, you’ll see that the surface of the buildings has changed between these two dates, a sign that the buildings have been physically altered. © Images provided by Sentinelle-2. © Myanmar Witness


Myanmar Witness also analysed the orientation of the shadows in the videos. Using the website Suncalc, which indicates the position of the sun for a given time and place, they determined when the videos of the attack on Ka Nan were filmed – around 10:30 am. This corresponds to the time given by the media outlets that reported the strike. 

Social media users also circulated several images showing injured people as well as dead bodies after the attack. Pro-democracy media outlets also published lists of victims, including children. A reverse image search showed that there was no trace of any of these images on line before January 7, 2024.

Myanmar Witness managed to confirm the identity of one victim – a woman wearing orange who appears in several images, seemingly lifeless.

These photos show a woman wearing orange. She appears in several of the photos geolocated by Myanmar Witness, in several different sites in Ka Nan. The sources are indicated for each image. “Source privée” (private source) is used when the NGO has decided to protect the anonymity of the witness for security reasons. © Montage by Myanmar Witness
These photos show a woman wearing orange. She appears in several of the photos geolocated by Myanmar Witness, in several different sites in Ka Nan. The sources are indicated for each image. “Source privée” (private source) is used when the NGO has decided to protect the anonymity of the witness for security reasons. © Montage by Myanmar Witness © Myanmar Witness


The team of investigators also geolocated images showing blood.

These are screengrabs of a video broadcast on social media. Myanmar Witness geolocated the video to where it was filmed in Ka Nan.
These are screengrabs of a video broadcast on social media. Myanmar Witness geolocated the video to where it was filmed in Ka Nan. © Daw Na News

In the case of the Ka Nan airstrike, the open source evidence is clear: imagery posted on social media and geolocated by investigators shows extensive destruction to civilian infrastructure in Ka Nan village, including a church, a high school and homes. 

We’ve seen this again and again in Myanmar, with airstrikes damaging or destroying education facilities, hospitals and places of worship.  

Matt Lawrence, of Myanmar Witness, says he hopes that the strike that took place in Ka Nan on January 7, 2024 will highlight the Myanmar Army’s continued use of these illegal strikes:

À lire aussiBurned churches: Myanmar’s junta accused of abuses against the Christian minority

‘Myanmar’s military has overwhelming air superiority’

Lawrence continues:

Research published by Myanmar Witness last year found that air strikes were a near-daily occurrence in areas where the fighting is worst, such as Sagaing. Civilians are left living in a state of fear over when the next attack might strike – this has become a part of their everyday lives. 

Myanmar’s military has overwhelming air superiority, in the form of combat jets and ground attack helicopters. This domination of the sky serves as a method of intimidation and fear, particularly when facing an opponent which, at most, has access to short-range drones.  


Myanmar Witness told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that they didn’t have solid evidence for a motive for the air strike that devastated Ka Nan on January 7. 

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The Hindu Morning Digest: January 5, 2024

Families of victims of the explosions gather at the courtyard of a hospital in the city of Kerman, about 510 miles (820 kilometres) southeast of the capital Tehran, Iran, on Jan. 3, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AP

Eight Indian Navy veterans get 60 days to contest Qatar jail terms

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Health Ministry seeks data on single women taking the Assisted Reproductive Technology route

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INDIA bloc seat-sharing talks delayed as Congress panel presents State units’ wishlist to Kharge

With their INDIA bloc allies breathing down their neck to come up with a seat-sharing formula at the earliest, the Congress’ five-member National Alliance Committee on Thursday briefed Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on the consultations they held with the party’s State units, 12 days after their first meeting on December 23. 

Aadhaar enabled payment comprised 11% of financial frauds: I4C analysis

Aadhar Enabled Payment System (AePS) frauds were 11% of the cyber financial scams that had its origin in India in 2023, an analysis by the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) has said. Most of these were committed in Bihar and Jharkhand. Last year, the central government’s portal ( and 1930 helpline received 13,10,329 complaints regarding cyber enabled financial frauds. The AePS frauds included cloning of biometrics.

Trinamool needs the support of Congress more than the Congress needs them: Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury

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Congress holds first meeting of manifesto committee 

The first meeting of the Congress Manifesto Committee was held here on Thursday. It was presided over by Chairman P. Chidambaram and attended by other members of the committee, including Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramiah, Jairam Ramesh, T.S. Singh Deo, Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor and others. 

Election Commission tweaks rules for allocation of symbols to unrecognised political parties

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Islamic State claims responsibility for Iran attack

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Myanmar’s military government pardons nearly 10,000 prisoners to mark Independence Day

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Centre keen to expand ECGC cover to individual jewellery exporters

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IND vs SA second Test | Fiery Bumrah helps Team India break a Cape Town hoodoo

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‘Unprecedented’ weapons seizures in Myanmar boost anti-junta resistance morale

A military operation launched in late October has turned the tide in the ongoing civil war between the Myanmar military junta and allied opposition forces throughout the country. Photos and videos shared online during December show significant weapons caches seized by resistance fighters who have taken over military outposts around the country. The seizure comes amid new anti-junta alliances and “unprecedented” major territorial gains, according to an expert on the conflict.

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Operation 1027 began on October 27, 2023 and has since led to significant strategic gains for Myanmar’s anti-junta opposition. 

The operation is conducted by the Three Brotherhood Alliance, made up of the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army. These ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) make up just a small part of the anti-junta resistance in Myanmar, which has been in the throes of a civil war since a military coup overthrew its democratically elected government in February 2021.

Operation 1027 has brought new energy to the anti-coup movement as resistance fighters take over key military outposts and capture territory around the country. Images shared online show fighters posing victoriously with weapons, ammunition and heavy artillery.

Images shared on X show members of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army with weapons and ammunition captured from Myanmar military outposts in Namhsan, Shan State between December 10 and 15, 2023.

The official account of Myanmar’s opposition government in exile shared these images of the Ta’ang National Army with heavy artillery captured from military bases in Namhsan.

‘They were able to take them by surprise and take over a lot of territory’

The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to Erin Murphy, a senior fellow with the Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a Myanmar expert.

What’s been happening in Myanmar in the last couple of months is that you’ve seen unprecedented cooperation among the ethnic armed groups. They combine forces to counter the Myanmar junta. They were able to take them by surprise and take over a lot of territory, junta outposts, take their equipment and their military materiel and really kind of breathe life into the anti-junta forces that have been in place since the coup.

And so you see these photos of large caches of weapons, whether it’s semi-automatic weapons, rifles, pistols. They’ve taken over a lot of Myanmar military weaponry by taking over these outposts.

Outposts, border towns and police stations

The three groups making up the Brotherhood Alliance operate primarily in Shan State, which borders China, and Rakhine State, on the western coast. The groups have carried out coordinated attacks, mostly in northern Myanmar.

The Arakan Army represents the Arakan ethnic group in Rakhine State, engaging in conflict with the Myanmar Armed Forces since 2009 for Arakan sovereignty. The Ta’ang National Liberation Army has been active in Shan State since the 1990s, primarily focusing on combating drug production and trade. The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, rooted in Communist ideology, has opposed the Burmese government since 1989 and shifted focus to anti-junta resistance in 2021.

The Arakan Army declared that they have been able to capture 142 military bases – including camps, outposts, border posts and police stations – in Rakhine State since the operation began. The FRANCE 24 Observers team was unable to independently verify this information.

In total, the Brotherhood Alliance says it has seized more than 422 bases and seven towns since October 27. The coalition has operated mainly in Shan state, capturing more than 100 military installations on the Chinese border and effectively cutting off 40% of cross-border trade through important border crossings.

A video shared on X shows a stockpile of weapons captured from a military outpost near Muse, a northern border town with China in Shan State.

Murphy adds: 

The Myanmar military is located throughout the country. So instead of being an outward-facing force, it’s really internal. It has border guard forces. It has a light infantry division. It has brigades located all throughout the country. Some of them are small, some of them are quite large, and they’re located in every state and region in the country.

Images shared on X show the Ta’ang National Liberation Army at a military base in Namhkam, Shan State, captured on December 18.

So some of these outposts that these EAOs have taken over are relatively small, but some of them are about medium-sized. What they’re able to seize is pretty unprecedented and pretty impressive as well. But we also have to remember that the Myanmar military still is able to get much better equipment from the Chinese, from maybe the North Koreans, the Russians, and the Belarusians. But if these EAOs are seizing that equipment, then they might be able to have the same level of firepower.

Increasing weapons supply and quality

In addition to cutting off trade through border crossings, outpost attacks help the opposition movement seize military-grade weaponry and ammunition from junta caches.

Photos shared on X detail some of the artillery seized by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in Shan State.

Armed organisations and militias have been known to import weapons from trafficking networks or manufacture their own, sometimes even 3D printing them. However, these weapons fall behind in terms of quality. 

Capturing military bases has allowed resistance fighters to add artillery cannons, Chinese-made anti-materiel rifles, and machine guns to their arsenals. 

‘It’s also meant to show the junta that they’re weak, that they are taking over territory, that they’re taking their weapons’

Operation 1027 has also encouraged other ethnic armed groups and militias – as well as the People’s Defense Forces (PDFs), the main military wing of Myanmar’s opposition government in exile – to ramp up their assaults on the military junta around the country. While weapons seizures are a significant tactical gain for the opposition, they also serve to boost the resistance movement’s morale and regain international attention.

Murphy explained:

These photos are certainly used for public relations, for morale, and I think to show the world what they are capable of doing. It certainly helps with morale and this has been going on since the coup in February 2021. And that the EAOs, the PDFs and the anti-junta forces – and that includes the civilians who are fighting through protests and not in hand-to-hand combat – they are wondering if the world forgot them.

Two groups allied with the Brotherhood Alliance captured a police station in Nyaung Pin Thar, in southern Myanmar, on December 13. Photos shared on X show the weapons they captured.

And Ukraine, Gaza have certainly taken the the air out of the focus on Myanmar. So these types of photos kind of help boost morale. And I think it’s also meant to show the junta that they’re weak, that they are taking over territory, that they’re taking their weapons. I think it’s meant to spook them as well.

The Irrawaddy, an opposition media outlet in Myanmar, reports that more than 650 junta soldiers have surrendered or defected since Operation 1027 began. 

China has helped facilitate talks and a temporary ceasefire between the ruling military and anti-junta groups. Despite a ceasefire announced on December 14, resistance fighters continued to seize key territory.

There are certainly opportunities here, and it is become very interesting in Myanmar. But I think the one thing that we all should remember is that there are millions of people getting caught in the crossfire of this and that they are without food, without shelter. They’re getting bombed by the junta trying to root out these EAOs and are getting caught in the crossfire. So we can’t forget the humanitarian issues that are happening here. And that’s unfortunately not unprecedented in Myanmar. But it is growing worse and worse by the day with this ongoing fighting and lack of peace.

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Myanmar’s military is losing ground against coordinated nationwide attacks, buoying opposition hopes

About two weeks into a major offensive against Myanmar’s military-run government by an alliance of three well-armed militias of ethnic minorities, an Army captain, fighting in a jungle area near the northeastern border with China, lamented that he’d never seen such intense action.

His commander in Myanmar’s 99th Light Infantry Division had been killed in fighting in Shan state the week before and the 35-year-old career soldier said army outposts were in disarray and being hit from all sides.

Editorial | Changing tide: On democracy and Myanmar’s civil war

“I have never faced these kinds of battles before,” the combat veteran told The Associated Press by phone. “This fighting in Shan is unprecedented.” Eight days later the captain was dead himself, killed defending an outpost and hastily buried near where he fell, according to his family.

The coordinated offensive in the northeast has inspired resistance forces around the country to attack, and Myanmar’s military is falling back on almost every front. The Army says it’s regrouping and will regain the initiative, but hope is rising among opponents that this could be a turning point in the struggle to oust the Army leaders who toppled democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi almost three years ago.

“The current operation is a great opportunity to change the political situation in Myanmar, ” said Li Kyar Win, spokesperson for the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, or MNDAA, one of the three militias known as the Three Brotherhood Alliance that launched the offensive on Oct. 27.

“The goal and purpose of the alliance groups and other resistance forces are the same,” he told the AP. “We are trying to eliminate the military dictatorship.”

Caught by surprise by the attack dubbed Operation 1027, the military has lost more than 180 outposts and strongpoints, including four major bases and four economically important border crossings with China.

Both sides claim they have inflicted heavy tolls on the other, though accurate casualty figures are not available. Nearly 335,000 civilians have been displaced during the current fighting, bringing the total to more than 2 million displaced nationwide, according to the United Nations.

In the latest assault, a coalition of militia forces attacked a town in southeastern Kayin state on Friday, blocking the main road to a key border town with Thailand. Residents said the military responded with artillery and airstrikes.

“This is the biggest battlefield challenge that the Myanmar military has faced for decades,” Richard Horsey, the International Crisis Group’s Myanmar expert, said of the offensive.

“And for the regime, this is by far the most difficult moment it’s faced since the early days of the coup.”

Complicating matters for the military is China ‘s apparent tacit support for the Three Brotherhood Alliance, stemming, at least partially, from Beijing’s growing irritation at the burgeoning drug trade along its border and the proliferation of centers in Myanmar from which cyberscams are run, frequently by Chinese organized crime cartels with workers trafficked from China or elsewhere in the region.

As Operation 1027 has gained ground, thousands of Chinese nationals involved in such operations have been repatriated into police custody in China, giving Beijing little reason to exert pressure on the Brotherhood to stop fighting.

The military, known as the Tatmadaw, remains far bigger and better trained than the resistance forces, and has armor, airpower and even naval assets to fight the lightly armed militias organized by various ethnic minority groups.

But with its unexpectedly quick and widespread losses and overstretched forces, morale is sagging with more troops surrendering and defecting, giving rise to a wary optimism among its diverse opponents.

The current gains are just part of what has been a long struggle, said Nay Phone Latt, a spokesperson for the National Unity Government, the leading opposition organization.

“I would say the revolution has reached the next level, rather than to say it has reached a turning point,” he said.

“What we have now is the results of our preparation, organization and building over nearly the past three years,” he said.

The Feb. 1, 2021, seizure of power by army commander Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing brought thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators to the streets of Myanmar’s cities.

Military leaders responded with brutal crackdowns and have arrested more than 25,000 people and killed more than 4,200 as of Friday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, and U.N. independent investigators earlier this year accused the regime of being responsible for multiple war crimes.

Its violent tactics gave rise to People’s Defense Forces, or PDFs — armed resistance forces that support the National Unity Government, many of which were trained by the ethnic armed organizations the military has fought in the country’s border regions for years.

But resistance was fragmented until Operation 1027, when three of the country’s most powerful armed ethnic groups, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in northeastern Shan state, and the Arakan Army in western Rakhine state, assembled a force of some 10,000 fighters, according to expert estimates, and rapidly overran military positions.

Sensing weakness and inspired by the early successes of those attacks, the Kachin Independence Army followed by launching new attacks in northern Kachin state, then joined the Arakan Army to help lead a PDF group to take a town in central Sagaing, the heartland of traditional ethnic Bamar support for the Tatmadaw.

In the eastern state of Kayah, also known as Karenni, an alliance of ethnic armed organizations launched their own attacks, beginning a direct assault on Nov. 11 on the state capital of Loikaw, where the Tatmadaw has a regional command base.

In the fierce ongoing fighting for Loikaw, the military is using artillery and airstrikes to pound militia positions.

But Khun Bedu, head of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, one of the biggest militias involved in the attack, said it was critical to take the Tatmadaw base.

“We have time, and it is a good opportunity,” he told AP.

Completing the encirclement of Tatmadaw forces, the Arakan Army attacked outposts in its home state of Rakhine in the country’s west on Nov. 13. Their success has been slow, with the Tatmadaw making use of naval power off the west coast to bombard positions, along with concentrated artillery and air strikes, according to a report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Morgan Michaels, who authored the report and runs the IISS Myanmar Conflict Map project, cautioned that the Tatmadaw has been able to concentrate its forces in strong points by abandoning positions and withdrawing, and remains a formidable force.

“It’s not done fighting, and the air and artillery strikes are increasing and becoming more intense,” he said. “So we have to see how that plays out.”

And despite their talk of ridding the country of the military regime, a lot of the fighting is also about the various groups seizing control of territory, especially the MNDAA, which was pushed out of the Kokang area of Shan state, including the capital Laukkaing, more than a decade ago by the military.

“The military could probably end a lot of this with a deal if it needed to,” Michaels said. “It would have to give up something considerable, but I think it could stop the bleeding by giving the MNDAA a considerable concession if they absolutely needed to.”

Still, unlike the civil war in Syria where multiple groups have different and often conflicting objectives, in Myanmar the anti-military groups are not fighting among each other, he said.

“It’s important to emphasize that many groups have the shared goal of either overthrowing or dismantling or severely depleting the capacity of the military regime,” Michaels said.

It was Nov. 15 when the AP first contacted the Tatmadaw captain, reaching him as he was fleeing a position through the jungle near the border town of Monekoe, one of the alliance’s primary targets.

He was able to link up with others, and then led a column back to the Monekoe area to take charge of an outpost on Nov. 22, when he gave the AP a grim assessment of his situation.

“We are surrounded by enemies,” he said, adding that even local army-affiliated militia could not be trusted.

“Here it is difficult to differentiate between who is enemy or friend,” he said.

The captain, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals against himself or his family for talking with the media, said there was not even enough time to eat a meal.

“We have to be always ready in an attack position,” he said as the sound of gunfire and an explosion erupted in the background.

“I can’t keep talking,” he said quickly. “They are coming to attack.”

Well aware of Beijing’s irritation over the criminal activity along its border, the Three Brotherhood Alliance underlined as it launched its offensive that it was committed to “combatting the widespread online gambling fraud that has plagued Myanmar.”

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has tried, unsuccessfully, to turn that on its head and say that the offensive is being funded by the drug trade.

As militia forces have advanced toward the city of Laukkaing, where many of the scam centers were located, their operations have been scattering and many high-level suspects have been captured and turned over to China.

Knowing China’s historic ties to the Brotherhood militias and the influence it wields, supporters of Myanmar’s ruling generals have held several demonstrations in major cities, including in front of the Chinese Embassy in Yangon, accusing China of aiding the militia alliance.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin skirted a question about those allegations this week, instead telling reporters that Beijing “respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar” and reiterating calls for peace.

But Beijing’s actions speak louder than its words, Horsey said.

“If they really wanted the cease-fire, they do have the leverage to enforce one or get pretty far toward enforcing one,” he said. “They haven’t done that, so that’s telling.”

The AP last made contact with the captain fighting in Shan state on Nov. 23. The call was short.

“I have something to prepare for our outpost,” he said hurriedly. “I will call you back.”

The next call was from a relative on Nov. 25, who said they had been informed he was killed in a night raid on his outpost and buried on site.

It was not clear exactly where the outpost was located, but only one battle was reported in the region that night.

The Brotherhood’s Ta’ang National Liberation Army said its forces attacked a large military outpost in Lashio township on Nov. 23 and took it early the next day.

In its matter-of-fact report, Ta’ang forces said they seized a howitzer, 78 smaller weapons and ammunition, and found the burial site of “more than 50 enemy.”

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‘A real blow for the junta’: Myanmar’s ethnic groups launch unprecedented armed resistance

Fighting in Myanmar between the military junta and an alliance of ethnic armed groups has intensified since late October after an unprecedented offensive in the country’s north exposed the junta’s struggles on the ground. The UN called for all sides to respect international law in a statement on Friday, saying that more than 70 civilians had already been killed and some 200,000 displaced by the upsurge in violence. 

Myanmar’s army, known as the Tatmadaw, has been fighting against simultaneous offensives launched by ethnic armed groups in several regions across the country since late October.

“It’s the biggest challenge that the military junta has had to face since the coup d’état of February 1, 2021,” said Thomas Kean, a specialist on Myanmar at the International Crisis Group, an NGO that monitors global conflicts. 

Fighting erupted over the weekend in Shan, Kachin and Chin states in the country’s north as well as in Rakhine State in the west, where an informal ceasefire had been in place for almost a year until early last week. Armed groups have taken the fight to the Tatmadaw in Kayah State in the country’s east, according to Kean. At least 70 civilians, including children, have been killed since the fighting erupted in earnest on October 27, and more than 90 wounded and more than 200,000 displaced, according to a UN statement released Friday. 

Operation 1027

Dubbed “Operation 1027”, the offensive began on October 27 in northern Shan State on the Chinese border. Three armed groups – the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army – have joined forces under the Three Brotherhood Alliance moniker. 

Myanmar’s borderlands are home to dozens of ethnic armed groups that have fought against the military on and off since the country’s independence in 1948. Since the Tatmadaw toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government in a February 2021 coup, some of these groups have been active in training the People’s Defence Forces that emerged to resist the putsch. 

“Helped by resistance groups formed after the coup, hundreds of experienced and fairly well-armed fighters managed to simultaneously attack key junta sites. They seized several towns and villages in the region, took control of military outposts and cut off important trade routes to China,” Kean said, adding that the attack had been “the junta’s biggest setback in the field for a long time”. 

Read moreMyanmar rebels’ offensive: Junta faces biggest threat since 2021 coup

Officially, the aim of the joint offensive was to crack down on the criminal activities that have proliferated in these borderlands, particularly in the Chinese-speaking region of Kokang. Kokang has been dominated since 2009 by a pro-junta militia that has grown wealthy through drug production and other kinds of illegal trafficking, including sex work and online fraud operations. The Chinese government has increasingly been pressuring governments across Southeast Asia to clamp down on the flourishing cyber-scam industry, in which gangs have held thousands of Chinese nationals captive in crowded compounds and forced them to target people across mainland China and beyond with online scams.

“Since May, Beijing has been asking the Myanmar military to step up control of its border militia, to no avail,” Kean explained. “So the Three Brotherhood Alliance has taken advantage of this junta inaction to launch its attacks under the guise of fighting crime.” It’s a way, he said, for the alliance to carry out its assault without risking a negative reaction from China.

“It was also a way to strike a diplomatic blow against the junta, a traditional ally of Beijing,” said Kyaw Win, director of the UK-based Burma Human Rights Network. Not long after the attack, Beijing had shown “its strong dissatisfaction”, deploring the Chinese casualties in Kokang. 

“And China is supposed to be building a major rail link through Kokang as part of its ‘Belt and Road Initiative’. So it wants stability on its border,” he added. “Now, faced with this offensive, the junta no longer seems able to guarantee it.”

Chain reaction

The Three Brotherhood Alliance’s offensive in the north seems to have set off a chain reaction across the country. “These victories have, in a way, galvanised the country’s armed groups,” Kean said.

On November 6, armed groups announced that they had seized control of Kawlin, a town of 25,000 people in the Sagaing region. The next day, resistance forces said they had taken Khampat, a town in the country’s west. 

“And so the fighting gradually spread, with fronts in several regions,” Win said. “Today, according to figures put forward by the various ethnic groups, the army has lost around a hundred military posts and control of some fifty towns and villages. The ethnic groups have also managed to seize numerous weapons and vehicles.”

The campaign has not gone unanswered. By November 2, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing had promised to launch a counter-attack in the country’s north. “We will take the necessary action to counter acts of terrorism,” he warned, announcing an emergency meeting with his military leaders.

But faced with a war on many fronts, the Tatmadaw seems to be exposing its weaknesses rather than its much-vaunted military might. 

“As has often been the case since the beginning of the civil war, it retaliates with air strikes, but its mobile forces on the ground appear limited and overwhelmed,” Kean said.

The Tatmadaw has been grappling with a shortage of fighters seizing power in February 2021. In an analysis published in May, researcher Ye Myo Hein estimated that “the army currently has around 150,000 personnel, including 70,000 combat soldiers”. According to his estimates, at least 21,000 soldiers have been killed or else deserted or defected.

“What the current situation shows is that the pressure on the Burmese army is stronger than ever,” Win said. “Today, it lacks men and resources. Every day, it loses ground in the countryside and is gradually confined to the big cities like Yangon and Mandalay.”

“The Tatmadaw can now collapse,” he said, calling the international community to action. “The time is now or never to act and restore peace to Burma.” 

A turning point?

Kean was more cautious in his appraisal of the situation.

“It’s true that recent events show that the military is at a critical juncture. Until now, it had never lost so much ground or even entire towns”, he said. “But it has already shown in the past that it is capable of reversing the trend. The question over the next few weeks will be whether or not it will be able to recover the lost territory.”

Before seeing the regime “surrender”, “it is more likely that the army will redouble its efforts to regain the upper hand, and that this will lead to an increase in violence and bombing”, Kean said. “The country risks sinking into an ever more brutal spiral where civilians will pay a heavy price.” 

There is one actor, though, that could turn the tables at any moment: China. 

“Even if Beijing has so far largely let the fighting take its course in Shan State, this may not last,” Kean said. “Beijing has far more influence over events on its border than any other international actor. China can just as easily put pressure on ethnic groups as on the junta to end the fighting and bog down the conflict in a status quo.”

This article has been adapted from the original in French.

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Furore over Australian soccer team’s match in war-torn Myanmar during AFC Cup

An Australian A-League team has been criticised for playing a football match in war-torn Myanmar against the government’s official travel advice, with some observers calling the move dangerous.

The Macarthur Bulls, a team from south-western Sydney, defeated Myanmar team Shan United 3-0 during an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup match held at the almost-empty Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon in late September.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns about Shan United’s ownership and links to businesses controlled by the Myanmar military junta, including one sanctioned by Australia.

There are now calls for the Shan United players to be denied visas to Australia ahead of an upcoming match on November 30.

The Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) continues to advise that Australians “do not travel” to Myanmar “due to ongoing civil unrest, armed conflict and the volatile security environment” in the wake of the 2021 military coup.

“Violence, including explosions and attacks, can occur anywhere and anytime, including in Yangon,” the Smartraveller advice reads, adding that attacks may be planned against locations that foreigners frequent, and that Australians may be at risk of arbitrary detention.

“We encourage all Australians to heed this advice,” DFAT told the ABC.

The ABC understands DFAT officials spoke to Macarthur Football Club’s management and Football Australia to reiterate the government’s official travel advice.

Myanmar has not been barred from international competitions, and its women’s team recently played against Vietnam in the South-East Asian Games.(Reuters: Chalinee Thirasupa)

In a statement, Macarthur said it is a member of Football Australia, the Asian Football Confederation and hence FIFA.

“As such, we operate within the rule and regulation framework adopted and implemented through the governance of these organisations,” the club said.

Macarthur FC players on a soccer field with empty seats in the background.

Football Australia requested the match be relocated to a neutral venue, but this was denied.(Macarthur Bulls)

Football Australia told the ABC that if Macarthur did not play the match in Yangon, the club would have been forced to withdraw from the competition.

“Both Macarthur FC and Football Australia formally requested the match be shifted to neutral territory considering the DFAT travel advice. The club also offered to meet the costs of this shift, where the request was denied,” a Football Australia spokesperson said.

“Having exhausted these alternatives, the club made the decision to play this match as drawn and scheduled.

“Football Australia arranged security in line with other past football events played abroad and no incidents occurred, where the team was in Yangon for a short period of time.”

The ABC understands fines can also be imposed — three A-League teams played in the AFC Asian Champions League in Qatar in 2020 despite COVID-19 concerns because they faced a $300,000 fine and two-year suspension from the tournament if they withdrew.

‘What were the football managers thinking?’

Sean Turnell, an Australian economist who was arbitrarily detained by Myanmar’s military junta for more than 650 days, told the ABC the decision to play soccer in the country where he was incarcerated was a questionable one.

“I think it incredibly unwise for an Australian soccer team to go to Myanmar,” he said.

“Unwise politically – the visit can be used by the regime to suggest international acceptance – but unwise for reasons of safety too.”

Caucasian man and Asian woman in an embrace looking at the camera.

Sean Turnell and his wife Ha Vu were reunited last year after he was detained in Myanmar.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

Chris Sidoti, a member of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, said it was surprising given the “absolutely appalling” security situation in the country.

“This Australian football team went into Yangon – a place where there are killings and bombings on a daily basis – against the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,” he said.

“Really, what were the football managers thinking? It placed their team at very high risk.”

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Airstrikes on Myanmar village feared to have killed 100

This photo provided by the Kyunhla Activists Group shows aftermath of an airstrike in Pazigyi village in Sagaing Region’s Kanbalu Township, Myanmar, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Witnesses and independent media reports said dozens of villagers in central Myanmar have been killed in an air attack carried out Tuesday by the country’s military government.
| Photo Credit: AP

Airstrikes by Myanmar’s military on April 11 killed as many as 100 people, including many children, who were attending a ceremony held by opponents of army rule, said a witness, a member of a local pro-democracy group and independent media.

The military is increasingly using airstrikes to counter a widespread armed struggle against its rule, which began in February 2021 when it seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. More than 3,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed since then by security forces.

A witness told The Associated Press that a fighter jet dropped bombs directly into a crowd of people who were gathering at 8 a.m. for the opening of a local office of the country’s opposition movement outside Pazigyi village in Sagaing region’s Kanbalu township. The area is about 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Mandalay, the country’s second largest city.

Also read | The quest for hope in Myanmar

About half an hour later, a helicopter appeared and fired at the site, said the witness, who asked not to be identified because he feared punishment by the authorities.

Initial reports put the death toll at around 50, but later tallies reported by independent media raised it to about 100. It was impossible to independently confirm details of the incident because reporting is restricted by the military government.

“I was standing a short distance from the crowd when a friend of mine contacted me on the phone about the approach of a fighter jet,” the witness said. “The jet dropped bombs directly on the crowd, and I jumped into a nearby ditch and hid. A few moments later, when I stood up and looked around, I saw people cut to pieces and dead in the smoke. The office building was destroyed by fire. About 30 people were injured. While the wounded were being transported, a helicopter arrived and shot more people. We are now cremating the bodies quickly.”

About 150 people had gathered for the opening ceremony, and women and 20-30 children were among the dead, he said, adding that those killed also included leaders of locally formed anti-government armed groups and other opposition organizations.

’This heinous act by the terrorist military is yet another example of their indiscriminate use of extreme force against innocent civilians, constituting a war crime,” the opposition National Unity Government said in a statement. The NUG calls itself the country’s legitimate government, in opposition to the army. The office being opened Tuesday was part of its administrative network.

The military government’s spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, acknowledged in a statement phoned to state television MRTV that the ceremony had been attacked, but accused anti-government forces in the area of carrying out a violent campaign of terror. He said the People’s Defense Forces — the armed wing of the National Unity Government — had terrorized residents into supporting them, killing Buddhist monks, teachers and other people, while the military sought peace and stability. He said there was evidence the attack had set off secondary blasts of explosives hidden by the People’s Defense Forces around the site.

In response to accusations of abuses, the military government often accuses pro-democracy forces of terrorism. But analysts for the United Nations and non-governmental organizations have gathered credible evidence of large-scale human rights abuses by the army, including the burning of entire villages and displacement of more than a million people, triggering a humanitarian crisis.

The death toll from Tuesday’s air attack, if confirmed, could be the highest in more than two years of civil conflict that began when the army seized power in 2021. As many as 80 people were killed last October in another government air attack in northern Myanmar on an anniversary celebration of the Kachin ethnic minority’s main political organization, which is also battling the military government.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army takeover triggered widespread popular opposition. After peaceful demonstrations were put down with lethal force, many opponents of military rule took up arms, and large parts of the country are now embroiled in conflict.

The army has been conducting major offensives in the countryside, where it has faced some of the toughest resistance in Sagaing, in Myanmar’s historic heartland. The resistance forces have no defense against air attacks.

In videos of the devastated village seen by AP, survivors and onlookers stumble through the area of the attack amid clouds of thick smoke, with only the skeleton frame of one building still standing in the distance. The videos could not immediately be verified but matched other descriptions of the scene.

Some motorbikes remained intact while others were reduced to their frames or buried under tree branches. In one area, two victims lay close together, one of whom had only one arm still attached.

Another victim lay face down in a small grove by the roadside. A few meters (yards) away, a small torso missing at least one limb could be seen.

In January, Myanmar’s top leader told the military it needs to take decisive action against those opposed to army rule. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said at a military parade on Armed Forces Day that those who condemned his government showed indifference to violence committed by its opponents.

Resistance forces have been able to prevent the military from taking firm control of large areas of the country, but have a great disadvantage in weapons, particularly in countering air attacks.

Critics of the military government advocate banning or limiting the sale of aviation fuel to Myanmar to cripple the military’s advantage in air power. Many Western nations have imposed arms embargoes on the military government, and the United States and Britain recently enacted new sanctions targeting individuals and companies involved in supplying jet fuel to Myanmar.

The human rights group Amnesty International said in a statement Tuesday that “The relentless air attacks across Myanmar highlight the urgent need to suspend the import of aviation fuel. Amnesty reiterates its calls on all states and businesses to stop shipments that may end up in the hands of the Myanmar Air Force.”

It also urged the U.N. Security Council to “push through effective actions to hold the Myanmar military accountable, including by referring the situation in the country to the International Criminal Court.”

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Morning Digest: February 8, 2023

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon that was downed by the United States over the weekend over U.S. territorial waters off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S., February 5, 2023.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

U.S. recovers balloon debris, China protests

United States authorities have begun collecting remnants of the Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down on Sunday, sparking a diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing. The Chinese government on Tuesday reiterated its criticism of the shooting down of the balloon, calling it an “overreaction”. The Biden administration has asserted that downing the balloon is not a violation of international law.

Turkey-Syria quake toll tops 7,800 as rescuers battle cold

Rescuers in Turkey and Syria battled bitter cold on Tuesday in a race against time to find survivors under buildings flattened by an earthquake that killed more than 7,800 people. The 7.8-magnitude quake struck on Monday as people slept, flattening thousands of structures, trapping an unknown number of people and potentially impacting millions.

Parliament logjam ends; AAP, BRS persist with Adani debate demand

Ending the four-day logjam in Parliament, most Opposition parties — barring the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) — decided to participate in the debate on the motion of thanks to the President, even in the absence of a focused debate on the Hindenburg revelations about the Adani group and its impact on LIC and SBI. Even though the Opposition publicly expressed its willingness to participate in Parliamentary proceedings, both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha failed to function in the first half of the day.

Biden aims to deliver reassurance in State of Union address

President Joe Biden is ready to offer a reassuring assessment of the United States’ condition rather than roll out flashy policy proposals as he delivers his second State of the Union address on Tuesday night, seeking to overcome pessimism in the country and concerns about his own leadership.

Zoom to shed about 1,300 jobs as pandemic-fuelled demand slows

Zoom Video Communications Inc said it would cut about 1,300 jobs, as demand for the company’s video conferencing services slows with the waning of the pandemic, and take a related charge of up to $68 million. While announcing the layoffs, which will hit nearly 15% of its workforce, Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan said he would take a pay cut of 98% for the coming fiscal year and forego his bonus.

Myanmar’s civil war gets too close to India’s border for comfort 

The civil war in Myanmar is getting too close to the Indian border for comfort and could heighten the refugee problem, security officials in the border States of Manipur and Mizoram said. In January, local organisations in Mizoram’s Champhai district had flagged the impact of bombing by Myanmar’s Armed Forces “perilously close” to the border between the two countries. The air raids were on camps of ethnic armed groups resisting the Myanmar junta. 

No proposal to bring quota for transgender persons: Government in LS

There is no proposal to bring in reservations for transgender persons in education or employment, according to the Social Justice Ministry’s response to a question in the Lok Sabha. Minister of State for Social Justice A. Narayanaswamy said that the Ministry had no information on the number of trans people employed in the government and private sector, adding that so far, just 10,635 people had registered on the national portal.

AgustaWestland chopper scam | SC denies bail to alleged middleman Christian Michel James

The Supreme Court denied bail to Christian Michel James, an alleged middlemen in AgustaWestland chopper scam cases, who is being probed by both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. A bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala said that argument of Mr. James that he be released on bail on the ground that he has completed half of maximum sentence in the cases cannot be accepted.

Centre launches Periyar river conservation project

In a significant development, the Central government has launched a programme for conserving the 244-km-long Periyar river in Kerala. The waterbody is among six rivers across the country that are being covered under the National River Conservation Plan. The other rivers are Barak, Mahanadi, Narmada, Godavari and Kaveri. According to officials, the project is being implemented in association with the State Forest department, Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) and Periyar foundation.

Interests of poor at centre of every budget presented by BJP government: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that interests of the poor have been at the centre of every Budget presented by his government. Addressing the first BJP parliamentary party meeting after the Union Budget was presented on February 1, he said no one is calling it a chunavi Budget (budget influenced by polls) even though it was the last full-fledged one before the next Lok Sabha polls. In his address, the Prime Minister also spoke about the devastating earthquake which has hit Turkey and Syria and noted that India is providing all possible assistance.

Indian-American student named ‘world’s brightest’ by Johns Hopkins for second consecutive year

Indian-American schoolgirl Natasha Perianayagam was named in the “world’s brightest” students list for the second consecutive year by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth, based on the results of above-grade-level tests of over 15,000 students across 76 countries. Her results in the verbal and quantitative sections levelled with the 90th percentile of advanced Grade 8 performance, which catapulted her into the honours list that year.

SC dismisses Rana Ayyub’s plea challenging U.P. special court summons in money laundering case

The Supreme Court dismissed a writ petition filed by journalist Rana Ayyub challenging a summons order issued to her by a Special Court in Uttar Pradesh on a complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The court said Ms. Ayyub was free to raise the question of territorial jurisdiction before the Special Court.

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