February 19, 2021
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers conflict updates on Myanmar, Former President Trump’s acquittal, and the state of emergency in Sudan.
In Myanmar, the military junta has been continuously increasing its presence through the deployment of armoured vehicles and soldiers. The heightened security presence and increasing violence of the military has reduced the number of protestors. On Tuesday, the military junta promised it would hold a fair election but on the same day police filed an additional charge against detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. On Thursday, the busy streets of Yangon were brought to a standstill. Slow-moving and “broken down” cars were parked across the roads to block security forces and prevent civil servants from going to work. Moreover, protestors have also targeted the military online, disrupting the central bank website and military-run propaganda agency True News Information Team. A young woman, Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, has become the first protester to die in the anti-coup protests in Myanmar as she was shot in the head just two days before her 20th birthday. While the police have denied that they used lethal ammunition, doctors have confirmed that two other protesters were also hit by live rounds.
In the wake of a deadly rocket attack in Iraq, NATO announced it will expand its security training mission in the country. The attack killed one civilian contractor and injured nine others. Also in Iraq, 13 Turkish citizens, including military and police personnel, were kidnapped and executed. Officials say they were killed by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. The murders led Turkish police to detain over 700 people, including members of a pro-Kurdish political party. In Somalia, delayed elections have led to heavy gunfire in the capital as opposition leaders defied a ban on public gatherings to protest and clashed with security forces. The president’s term expired last week and the opposition wants him to vacate the office. In Spain on Tuesday, riots broke out over the arrest of a rapper who is accused of glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his songs. Police arrested 18 people, 55 were injured, including 25 officers.
According to the UN health agency, coronavirus infections have dropped 16% in the past week, while deaths have dropped 10%. This week, the following countries began vaccinations: South Africa, Venezuela, Japan, El Salvador, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been facing resistance in Europe, with doctors and public health officials reduced to pleading with Germans to get the vaccine after a number of “no shows” left hundreds of vaccines unused. Officials in Italy, Austria, Bulgaria and Sweden have signaled some public resistance to the vaccine after side-effects led hospital staff and other frontline workers to call in sick, while officials in France have televised their vaccinations to increase public support. In other news, Japanese Health authorities have found more than 90 cases of a new variant.
Last Saturday, the US Senate voted to acquit ex-President Trump in his second impeachment trial – for inciting the Capitol rioters in January. However, the evidence presented, like the evacuation of ex-Vice President Pence, failed to sway Republican Senators who remain loyal to Trump; only 7 Republicans voted to impeach, raising concerns about his ongoing influence in the party. Meanwhile, President Biden has declared a state of emergency in Texas due to extreme storms which have left millions without power, as power grids fail, and wind power plants are damaged; others are suffering from lack of heating or access to water and food. Moreover, 21 have reportedly died and several more have been injured, and, according to the National Weather Service, the storms are thought to affect 150 million Americans. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Republican, is facing backlash for flying to Cancun on holiday amidst the emergency, although he has since returned, he remains under scrutiny. In international news, the Biden government is currently reviewing whether to withdraw NATO troops from Afganistan on the grounds that the Taliban is fulfilling their end of the 2020 peace agreement. Before leaving office, ex-President Trump drafted plans to have troops removed by the Spring, it is unclear if this will go ahead.
The Taiwan Defense Ministry has reported that Chinese fighter aircrafts entered their air defence zone in the South China Sea, by the Pratas Islands, controlled by Taiwan. Meanwhile, the US, an ally of Taiwan, has sailed through the disputed territorial sea for the second time since President Biden took office. It has also come to light that during the military clashes between India and China along the Himalayan border last summer, 4 Chinese Peoples Liberation Army soldiers were killed in the violent “hand-to-hand” battle; the Indian authorities reported 20 fatalities. In other news, a female teacher has come forward reporting extreme abuse in detention centres for Uyghur women in the Xinjiang region; allegations include gang-rape committed by officials and the shackling of detainees. In Canada, politicians are calling to recognise the situation as genocide, although Prime Miniter Trudeau has refrained from openly supporting the motion.
Hong Kong’s government replaced the director of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the only independent and publicly funded broadcaster operating on Chinese soil. The move comes after RTHK pulled programming from the BBC in Hong Kong last week following a report concerning human rights violations perpetrated against China’s Uighur minority. Leung Ka-wing, the director of RTHK, will be replaced by Patrick Li, the deputy secretary for home affairs. Li has no media experience. In other news, Jimmy Lai, a democracy advocate and newspaper publisher was denied bail again this week ahead of his trial this spring where he faces charges of colluding with foreign forces. Lai is one of several Hong Kong activists facing charges under the new National Security Law which China imposed on Hong Kong last year following anti-government protests in 2019.
This week, the United Nations Human Rights Office has expressed concern about the Zimbabwean authorities misusing Covid-19 regulations to clamp down on political dissidents. The criticism follows a report by NGO Human Right Watch (HRW) which reported restrictions on the “freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. The report detailed that 23 African governments are using the COVID-19 as a pretext to disrespect human rights. In particular, the HRW report raised concern over Zimbabwe’s Public Health Order Act, due to come into effect in March, whereby individuals face 20 years imprisonment for “fake news on public health matters”. In other news, Zimbabwe has begun rolling out its vaccination program using China’s Sinopharm vaccine. China donated 200,000 doses, meaning Zimbabwe is among the first African states to vaccinate. Vice President Constantino Chiwenga received the vaccine publically, as the country awaits another 600,000 doses to arrive next month.
The Cuban government believes that they are on the brink of the mass production of the Covid-19 vaccine created on the island. Having their own vaccine could not only mean the restoration of tourism to the nation but they could also boost their image in the biotech sector. The Sovereign 2 vaccine is entering its final trial stage right as the country needs it, as they are facing bread shortages, medication shortages, and their economy is declining. The Biden administration is getting pushes from various senators and activist groups to engage in conversations with Cuba. Former President Donald Trump and his administration added Cuba to the US terrorist watch list late in their term and this was a decision many disagreed with. But, with Biden now in power, many Cubans and Americans hope that he will re-engage with the nation.