More Deaths of Muslims in Myanmar

RANGOON— Arakanese Buddhist villagers in the company of government security forces attacked a Rohingya Muslim village in southern Maungdaw Township in strife-torn Arakan State on Tuesday morning, leading to the deaths of possibly dozens of Rohingya women and children, a human rights group reports.


Cambodia: Garment Workers End Strike

The latest strike by Cambodian garment workers has ended with most workers going back to work after two weeks, and violent responses by police killed three during demonstrations. NY Times

It is only the latest in a string of protests by the severely underpaid workers.

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) recorded 131 strikes last year, not counting December, when the recent national garment strike was declared. In 2011, the factory association logged 34 strikes for the entire year.

Although apparel manufacturing heavy weights such as Adidas, Levi Strauss and Puma have signed an open latter calling for negotiations to create a wage-review mechanism it is unclear if and how it will be answered.


Cambodian Workers on Strike

 Cambodia garment workers throw stones at riot police during a strike near a factory on the Stung Meanchey complex on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Jan. 3, 2014. At least three people were killed when police opened fire to break up a protest by striking garment workers demanding a doubling of the minimum wage, police and human rights workers said. Cambodia garment workers throw stones at riot police during a strike near a factory on the Stung Meanchey complex on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Jan. 3, 2014. At least three people were killed when police opened fire to break up a protest by striking garment workers demanding a doubling of the minimum wage, police and human rights workers said. (Heng Smith/Associated Press)

Cambodia garment workers throw stones at riot police during a strike near a factory on the Stung Meanchey complex on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Jan. 3, 2014. At least three people were killed when police opened fire to break up a protest by striking garment workers demanding a doubling of the minimum wage, police and human rights workers said. (Heng Smith/Associated Press)

Pitchfork Protests All Across Italy

Pitchfork Protests All Across Italy

Pitchfork Protests All Across Italy

“As anti-government protests gathered steam across Italy this week, galvanising diverse groups under the banner of the Pitchforks movement, one image above all shook the establishment: a phalanx of riot police holstering their truncheons and removing their helmets in a gesture of sympathy.

The episode in Turin, following clashes with a small number of extremists, was explained away by the authorities as being ordered from on high to defuse tension. No one believed them – not least because the policemen involved and Felice Romano, leader of the SIULP police union, declared that both sides had common cause in their anger at government-imposed austerity policies.”

Financial Times

Italy’s “pitchfork” protests spread to Rome on Thursday when hundreds of students clashed with police and threw firecrackers outside a university where government ministers were attending a conference.

Truckers, small businessmen, the unemployed, students and low-paid workers have staged four days of rallies in cities from Turin in the north to Sicily in the south in the name of the “pitchfork” movement, originally a loosely organized group of farmers from Sicily.


In Thailand 3 More Shot Dead Trying to Oust Prime Minister

The week-old campaign of antigovernment protests in Thailand entered a dangerous new phase on Sunday after shootings involving rival political camps left at least three people dead and more than 110 wounded in Bangkok.


NY Times

Ukranians Infuriated at the President Fill the Streets

As hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Kiev once again on Monday, calling for “revolution” as they blockaded government buildings, demonstrators also took to the streets in Armenia, where the government is considering signing the same Moscow-led bill that kicked off Ukraine’s mass unrest.

… as many as 350,000 people, the biggest public rally in the ex-Soviet state since the “Orange Revolution” overturned a stolen election nine years ago.

“Our plan is clear: It’s not a demonstration, it’s not a reaction. It’s a revolution,” said former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, speaking from the top of a bus.

Trying to Break Through Police Lines

Trying to Break Through Police Lines

Al Jazeera and more by David Herszenhorn at the NY Times…

Meanwhile, mobs are forming to go shopping in the USA….

Not Going Well in Thailand

With every good reason folks have been demonstrating in Bangkok against what they perceive are the operating ties between the current Prime Minister and her predecessor, her brother, who has self-exiled to escape prosecution for corruption.  However, the turn today into brick throwing —if the reports are accurate– against other citizens supporting the government, can not be good.

Anti-government protests turned violent Saturday with at least one person killed in the Thai capital after opponents and supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra clashed.

Protests had remained relatively peaceful over the last week as the two sides essentially stayed apart during daily demonstrations. But on Saturday, opponents of Yingluck gathered near the site of a pro-government rally being held inside a stadium.

Using sticks, stones and chunks of concrete, several hundred protesters, many of them students, took aim at government supporters some 50 yards away up a dark street behind Ramkhamhaeng University.

Soon, small explosions and what sounded like gunfire rang out. “Run back,” shouted some of the 60 or so anti-government students.


Al Jazeera

That is how civil disobedience turns un-civil and then the army wins… Not the way to get to where you want to go.

Burma: Nation Waiting

Interesting news today from Burma/Myanmar:

Burmese President Thein Sein, who has steered a wave of reforms since the end of military rule, will not be seeking a second term at the next election in 2015, the leader of his party said on Thursday.

Which of course raises questions about the country’s First Lady – Aung San Suu Kyi:

The hugely popular Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to run, but only if the constitution is changed to eliminate a clause that bars Burmese from the presidency if their children or spouse are foreign nationals. Her two sons are British, as was her late husband.

The current speaker of parliament and leader of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Shwe Mann has also expressed an interest in running.  Like Thein Sein, he was a member of the now disbanded military junta — though it can be assumed the feelings in his heart and mind are not similarly disbanded….

Burma Royhinga

Ethnic tensions remain high in parts of the county with military shelling in Kachin state and Buddhist-Muslim communal violence in Arkan state.  Aung San Suu Kyi, herself, came under fire by some human rights activists for a BBC interview last week in which she seemed to shifting blame for the initiation of violence from Buddhists to a more “moderate”  view of “violence is coming from both sides.”

“It’s not ethnic cleansing. … I think it’s due to fear on both sides. And this is what the world needs to understand—that the fear is not just on the side of the Muslims, but on the side of the Buddhists as well,” she said. “Yes, Muslims have been targeted, but also Buddhists have been subjected to violence. There’s fear on both sides, and this is what is leading to all these troubles.”

This could be helpful if it leads to a damping down of tensions and steps towards reconciliation.  It will not be helpful if it constitutes a blind eye and tacit permission for one of the two ‘aggrieved’ parties to muscle up even more.

Turmoil Re-Escalates in Turkey

On Sunday a 22 year old man in the ancient city of Antioch, now called Antakya, in southern Turkey where it dips below the east-west border with Syria, was killed by a tear gas canister to the head.  Ahmet Atakan had joined a demonstration against highway construction and calling for remembrance and justice for a 14 year old boy, still in  coma from a tear gas hit to the head in the June, Gezi Park demonstrations when he died.  Protesters have now added his name to the growing grievances against the government, particularly its heavy-handed police response to outpouring of feeling against the growing authoritarianism and the turn to religion of the regime.

Turkey sept 2013

Although the June demonstrations, triggered by an government urban redevelopment plan for the popular public park in Istanbul, had simmered down after a pull back of police and a promise not to develop there, the underlying seismic forces were still in play.  In Antakya the mixture is even more explosive as a substantial number of Alevis, a sect of Shiism, itself the largest minority in Sunni dominated Turkey, live there.  Atakan’s family is Alevi, which not only is a minority within a minority in a country recently encouraging the majority religion, it also has affinities with the Alawites of Syria — at the center of the Assad war against non-Alawites.  Turkey, in the form of Prime Minster Erdogan, has been a prime mover in taking on Assad.  The demonstrations, at least in the Antakya area, have merged the anti-Erdogan , anti-authoritarian feelings of young Turkish liberals with anti-Erdogan, anti-intervention, fellow-feeling with Assad’s base.

The result of increased frustration, increased police violence, a serious dose of sectarian religious fervor have turned the demonstrations more violent, with hurled stones, burning barricades, more tear gas and strip searches of young protesters.  At least 8 journalists have been reported injured.

Turkey sept 2013 b

To add to the turmoil, several Turkish F-16 fighter planes scrambled from a base near Antakya after a massive explosion across the border in Syria set the region on edge.

More at The Washington Post


Egypt: The Boil from Below

Interesting article by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, environmental writer for the Guardian (UK), which places the current events in Egypt in the much larger, world changing-fast events

 …the fundamental drivers of Egyptian rage remain overlooked.

Morsi’s key problem was that he had spent most of his energies on consolidating the reach of his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than dealing with Egypt’s entrenched social, economic and political problems. Indeed, Egyptian unrest is the consequence of a fatal cocktail of structural failures rooted in an unsustainable global model of industrial civilisation – addicted to fossil fuels, wedded fanatically to casino capitalism, and convinced, ostrich-like, that somehow technology alone will save us.

Egypt’s oil production peaked in 1996, and since then has declined by around 26%. Having moved from complete food self-sufficiency since the 1960s, to excessive dependence on imports subsidised by oil revenues (now importing 75% of its wheat), declining oil revenues have increasingly impacted food and fuel subsidies. As high food prices are generally underpinned by high oil prices – because energy accounts forover a third of the costs of grain production – this has further contributed to surging global food prices.

Food price hikes have coincided with devastating climate change impacts in the form of extreme weather in key food-basket regions.

When Food Shortages Bring War

When Food Shortages Bring War

It’s not just climate change and oil, though.  It’s the human analysis and response to changing conditions that are driving the horses over the cliff instead of trying to keep them on the crumbling road.

With 40% of Egyptians already below the UN poverty line of less than £2 a day, Morsi’s IMF-inspired policies amounted to a form of economic warfare on the Egyptian people. To make matters worse, as Egypt’s economic crisis made it harder to arrange payments, wheat imports dropped sharply – between 1 January and 20 February, the country bought around 259,043 tonnes, roughly a third of what it purchased in the same period a year ago. Coupled with ongoing unemployment and poverty, Morsi’s Egypt was a time-bomb waiting to explode.

Nor are the problems Egypt’s alone:

 Egypt is in some ways a microcosm of our global challenges. With the age of cheap oil well and truly behind us, an age of climate extremes and population growth ahead, we should expect increasing food prices for the foreseeable future. This in turn will have consequences. For the last few years, the food price index has fluctuated above the critical threshold for probability of civil unrest.

Unless Egypt’s leaders and activists begin taking stock of the convergence of crises unraveling the social fabric, their country faces a permanent future of intensifying turmoil.

And that lesson, in a world facing rising food, water and energy challenges, is one no government can afford to ignore.

The Guardian: Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed