US offers refuge to Myanmar citizens

US offers refuge to Myanmar citizens
Protesters with placards with the image of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. (AFP)
Yangon, Mar 13 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 3/13/2021 1:03:49 PM IST

The US government, on Friday, said that Myanmar citizens stranded by the violence, which is the result of the military coup would be granted temporary refuge in the US, the AFP reported. Myanmar has been in a state of turmoil ever since the military took over the government led by National League of Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1. Protestors have been taking to the streets despite being met with force from the military and the police, The Week reported.

“After a thorough review of this dire situation, I have designated Burma for temporary protected status so that Burmese nationals and habitual residents may remain temporarily in the United States,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told AFP. The protection is set for 12 months but could be extended if threats remain. 

So far, over 60 people have been killed due to the police opening gunfire against the protesters. Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest and faces a few charges including corruption, illegal ownership of six walkie talkies and publication of information that may “cause fear or alarm” or disrupt “public tranquillity”.

The military junta have so far detained 500 of the protestors who are demanding the release of the de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The military has been insisting that Suu Kyi’s win in the November elections are fraudulent. Of the 500 detained, Three of the arrested have already been convicted and sentenced to two years in prison, while 460 remain in detention. The rest have been sentenced to three months in prison.

The military junta, on Tuesday, cancelled the licenses of five media organisations. The organisations, whose licenses have been cancelled have been covering the protests regularly. They have found other platforms, like social media to mete out news reports. 

The US and the UK announced sanctions on military leaders of Myanmar, whereas, the UNSC condemned the coup.

The US Department of Homeland Security said the coup has led to a shortage of humanitarian and medical aid. “Such conditions prevent Burmese nationals and habitual residents from returning safely,” it said. 

Meanwhile, according to Reuters, United Nations human rights investigator Thomas Andrews on Friday dismissed as “absurd” comments by a senior Myanmar official that authorities were exercising “utmost restraint”. Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, he called for a united approach to “strip away the junta’s sense of impunity”.

Former colonial power Britain on Friday warned its citizens in Myanmar to leave, saying “political tension and unrest are widespread since the military takeover and levels of violence are rising”.

South Korea said on Friday it would suspend defence exchanges and reconsider development aid to Myanmar because of the violence. The Kremlin said Russia, which has close ties to Myanmar’s military, was concerned over the mounting violence and was “analysing” whether to suspend military-technical cooperation.

“We evaluate the situation as alarming, and we are concerned about the information about the growing number of civilian casualties coming from there,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying.

The U.N. Security Council this week dropped language from a statement that condemned the army takeover as a coup, due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam.

Poland’s foreign ministry said a Polish journalist was arrested this week in Myanmar, the second foreign reporter to be detained. A Japanese journalist was briefly held while covering a protest.

Riot police and armed soldiers entered the general hospital in Hakha, in the western Chin state, forcing all 30 patients to leave and evicting staff from on-site housing, said local activist Salai Lian.

Soldiers have been occupying hospitals and universities across Myanmar as they try to quash a civil disobedience movement that started with government employees such as doctors and teachers but has expanded into a general strike that has paralysed many sectors of the economy.

On Friday evening, large crowds gathered for evening vigils. In Yangon, they lit candles in the shape of a three-finger salute, the symbol of the movement, while saffron-robed monks gathered outside a pagoda in the northern Sagaing region.

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