Myanmar authority explains Loikaw clashes as ‘terrorist raid’

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The Myanmar State Administration Council- (SAC) appointed foreign ministry on January 21 described the skirmishes in Kayah state capital Loikaw 10 days earlier as an attack staged by “terrorists”.

Myanmar authority explains Loikaw clashes as ‘terrorist raid’

It said in a statement that the ethnic armed group Karenni National Progressive Party and civilian militias known as People’s Defence Forces had conducted a raid by “taking positions in residential areas – houses, governmental and religious buildings”, among other locations.

“The ’terrorist groups’ … [were] using local civilians as human shields and deliberately attacking civilian targets”.

“The ‘terrorists’ did not allow the innocent local civilians who wished to move to safe places during the incident. Instead, they used the civilians as human shields,” the statement said.

Myanmar has been in chaos since February 1, 2021, when the military dissolved the civilian-led administration over alleged election irregularities and declared a one-year state of emergency.

The Tatmadaw, as the military is known, formed the SAC the following day, as the primary ruling body, with Defence Services commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing as chairman.

The January 21 statement comes in response to concerns raised by a number of countries and international organizations, the authority noted.

It underlined that while it found that some observations were offered in a constructive manner, others were ostensibly made with the intent to “exert undue political pressure on Myanmar based on information emanating from unverifiable sources, anti-government organizations, media and ‘terrorist groups’”.

The state’s “security forces responded [to] the ‘terrorists’ with utmost restraint not to harm innocent civilians. The ‘terrorist groups’ also launched attacks on Loikaw prison to instigate unrest and disrupt stability in the city”, the statement said.

“The security forces were compelled to seek aerial and artillery supports in countering the ‘terrorists’. However, they did not attack innocent civilians. It is learned that no innocent civilian was injured and some of the buildings in the prison and civilian buildings suffered collateral damages during the attacks.

“As such, countries and international organisations should reject and condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” it added.

The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has also expressed serious concern over the intense clashes in Loikaw.

Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry on January 20 said the ongoing violence is jeopardising the progress achieved during Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent visit to Myanmar.

During his Myanmar trip, Hun Sen spoke of the success of Cambodia’s win-win policy, which he said eventually brought about national reconciliation, comprehensive peace, stability, development and prosperity in the Kingdom, according to Sounry.

“In this spirit, we are of the view that all parties concerned must accept the ceasefire and end all acts of violence while exercising the utmost restraint in order to start a dialogue that will establish favorable conditions leading to the re-establishment of peace in the country,” he said.

The Phnom Penh Post

Published : January 23, 2022

Dr. Mahathir is in stable condition, says daughter Marina

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Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is currently in stable condition at the National Heart Institute (IJN), says his daughter Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

Dr. Mahathir is in stable condition, says daughter Marina

KUALA LUMPUR: Dr. Mahathir has been receiving follow-up treatment at IJN over the past two days, following a successful elective procedure he had on Jan 8.

“He (Dr. Mahathir) is currently stable and he is responding well to treatment. Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali and family ask Malaysians to pray for Dr. Mahathir’s full and speedy recovery,” Marina said in a statement on Saturday (Jan 22).

Members of the press have begun gathering at IJN since Saturday (Jan 22) afternoon following talk that Dr. Mahathir had been readmitted.

According to a spokesperson from the Langkawi MP’s office, Dr. Mahathir is being warded in IJN’s coronary care unit (CCU).

The 96-year-old was previously admitted to IJN on Jan 7 for an elective medical procedure and was discharged on Jan 13.

Published : January 23, 2022

Vietnamese Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh dies at 95

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HUẾ — Prominent Buddhist monk and Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh passed away at Từ Hiếu Temple where his spiritual journey began, at midnight Saturday aged 95.

Vietnamese Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh dies at 95

Hạnh was born in 1926 at Quảng Điền District, Thừa Thiên-Huế Province. He later joined Từ Hiếu Temple in Huế as a novice monk at the age of 16.

The famous Zen master was not only a monk but also a culturalist, writer, poet, scholar and calligrapher.

He was known for giving public lectures on mindfulness and peace to tens of thousands of people worldwide. He also founded Plum Village monasteries in France and Thailand.

He is the author of more than 120 books in Vietnamese, English and French.

Some of his famous books published in Việt Nam include ‘Đường xưa mây trắng’ (Old Path White Clouds), ‘Phép lạ của sự tỉnh thức’ (The Miracle of Mindfulness) and ‘Giận’ (Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames).

In the book “In the Buddhist World,” Prof. John Powers, an Australian Buddhist scholar, selected 13 monks who had contributed to the formation and development of world Buddhism over the past 2,500 years, and Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh was in 10th place.

In 1967, American Pastor Martin Luther King nominated Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, calling him “an Apostle of peace and nonviolence.”

In 2018, Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh returned from Thailand to Từ Hiếu Communal House with the wish to live out his remaining days.

He told the monks: “If one day I die, don’t build me a tomb tower. It costs money. It costs the people’s land. Our people are still very poor. Burn me. My ashes, divide them, then give them to Plum Village’s monasteries around the world and spread them on the roads where you go to meditate every day. In doing so, you and I will still go on walking meditation together every day.”

Most Venerable Thích Nhật Từ, member of the Executive Council of the Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha, said: “Let’s stop, and take a minute of silence to remember the merits and great contributions of a venerable, compassionate and wise teacher for Vietnamese and global Buddhism.” VNS

Published : January 22, 2022

By : Vietnam News

Vietnam, Cambodia enjoy thriving ties: Foreign Ministers

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PHNOM PENH — Minister of Foreign Affairs Bùi Thanh Sơn on Thursday held talks with his Cambodian counterpart Prak Sakhonn during which both sides said they are happy to see the growing ties between the two countries.

Vietnam, Cambodia enjoy thriving ties: Foreign Ministers

Despite COVID-19, the bilateral trade surged nearly 80 per cent to reach US$10 billion last year.

In 2021, Vietnamese companies poured more than $88.9 million in four new projects in Cambodia.

This raised Việt Nam’s total investment to over $2.84 billion, making it one of the five largest foreign investors in the neighbouring country.

The two FMs agreed to strengthen cooperation and enforce agreements reached by both countries’ leaders on land border demarcation and marker planting.

Sơn also underscored the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability as well as freedom of navigation and aviation security in the region, saying that disputes must be settled via peaceful negotiations on the basis of international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It is necessary to push for talks to finalise a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, he said.

Earlier, the Vietnamese diplomat paid a courtesy call to Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen.

Welcoming Sơn on the first days of the Cambodia – Việt Nam Friendship Year 2022, PM Hun Sen expressed his delight at the positive and comprehensive development of the two countries’ relations in all fields, from politics, security, defence to education-training, culture, science-technology, people-to-people exchange and cooperation between people living the shared border.

He also emphasised that the two foreign affairs ministers must coordinate well to organise celebrations of the friendship year and the 55th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties.

Minister Sơn, for his part, reaffirmed Việt Nam supports Cambodia in its role as Chair of ASEAN in 2022 and stands ready to join Cambodia and other member states to accelerate the implementation of the bloc’s agenda, particularly the five-point consensus on Myanmar.

He conveyed greetings and reiterated the invitations of Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính and other Vietnamese leaders to PM Hun Sen to visit Việt Nam in 2022.

The same day, the Vietnamese foreign minister paid courtesy calls to Cambodia’s President of Senate Samdech Say Chhum and President of the National Assembly Samdech Heng Samrin, and presented gifts to pandemic-hit Vietnamese people in Cambodia on the occasion of Tết, Việt Nam’s traditional Lunar New Year holiday.

Sơn is on a January 19-20 visit to Cambodia at the invitation of Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn. — VNS

Published : January 22, 2022

By : Vietnam News

Thailand hands over 179 Myanmar migrant workers

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Thailand handed over a total of 179 Myanmar citizens including Myanmar migrant workers who went to Thailand for work and now desire to return Myanmar on each own will and those detained in Thailand for various causes and now freed from their sentences on January 20 where Myanmar authority accepted them.

Thailand hands over 179 Myanmar migrant workers

The ceremony took place at the No-2 Friendship Bridge in Tachileik on 10:30 am on January 20. Health workers gave COVID-19 check to them. They will be placed under quarantine for 11 days and nasal swabs will be taken for three times. After that, they will be allowed to go to their native places, it said.

The handing over ceremony took place 13 times from July 31, 2021 to January 20, 2022. A total of 1917 people were transferred back to Myanmar.

Published : January 22, 2022

By : Eleven Media

Kishida, Biden agree to launch 2-Plus-2 economic talks

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TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed Friday that the two governments will launch a “two-plus-two” framework for talks among their foreign and economic ministers to discuss economic security, infrastructure investment and other issues.

Kishida, Biden agree to launch 2-Plus-2 economic talks

During their 80-minute video conference, Kishida and Biden confirmed their commitment to beefing up the deterrence power and response capability of the Japan-U.S. alliance. With China’s growing military pressure in mind, they underscored the significance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The Japanese and U.S. leaders also agreed to hold a summit meeting of the Quad countries, also including Australia and India, in Japan in the first half of this year. Biden will visit Japan to attend the Quad summit.

The virtual meeting marked the first full-fledged talks with the U.S. president for Kishida, who took office last autumn. They held telephone talks in October and had a short conversation in Britain in November, on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference. Kishida’s visit to the United States has yet to be realized due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The two-plus-two economic dialogue will comprise Japan’s foreign minister and economy, trade and industry minister, as well as the U.S. state and commerce secretaries.

The Japanese and U.S. governments will aim to hold promptly the first talks under the new framework, aimed at reinforcing supply chains, preventing the leakage of advanced technologies and promoting decarbonization efforts.

Also at the meeting, Kishida and Biden affirmed their countries’ close cooperation in dealing with North Korea, which has recently suggested that it could resume nuclear tests and the test-firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Biden expressed his country’s strong support for Japan’s efforts to resolve as soon as possible the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens decades ago.

Meanwhile, the president reconfirmed that the United States’ defense obligation under Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. security treaty covers the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by China.

Kishida mentioned his administration’s intention to fundamentally strengthen Japan’s defense capacity, including through the planned update this year of its national defense strategy.

Referring to the current tensions over Ukraine, the two leaders agreeed to closely cooperate to prevent a possible invasion by Russia.

Elsewhere in the virtual meeting, Kishida and Biden affirmed Japan-U.S. cooperation toward realizing a world without nuclear weapons.

Published : January 22, 2022

By : The Japan News

S. Korea to lower age minimum for COVID-19 pills to 60

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The South Korean government will lower the age minimum for COVID-19 treatment pills from 65 to 60 to better counter the spread of the omicron variant, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Friday.

S. Korea to lower age minimum for COVID-19 pills to 60

Kim announced the measure during the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters meeting, along with other changes that the government will bring into the country’s COVID-19 response system.

“(The government) will make several changes in the country’s response system to more effectively counter the spread of the omicron variant,” Kim said during the meeting.

Kim said that the government will also expand its supply of COVID-19 treatment pills to nursing facilities and medical centers specializing in infectious diseases.

The first batch of Pfizer COVID-19 treatment pills arrived in the country last week. The pills will be administered first to patients aged 65 and above, as well as those with compromised immune systems.

Kim said the government will also introduce rapid antigen tests at local testing stations to make COVID-19 tests simple and fast. Previously, testing centers mainly provided PCR-based testing to visitors.

When rapid antigen tests are introduced, PCR-based tests will be provided only to people at higher risk from the coronavirus, including older people, people with underlying health conditions and pregnant women, health authorities said.

The government will introduce rapid antigen tests at airports as well, to better control the number of imported cases.

According to Kim, the government plans to allow more private hospitals to diagnose and treat COVID-19 patients. The government will try the scheme to determine its effectiveness. The government will later decide whether it will expand the scheme nationwide, it added.

By Shim Woo-hyun

Published : January 22, 2022

By : The Korea Herald

[Singapore] Isolation period cut from 10 days to seven for those fully vaccinated against Covid-19

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SINGAPORE – The maximum isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals and children below the age of 12 who have tested positive for Covid-19 will be reduced from 10 days to seven days.

[Singapore] Isolation period cut from 10 days to seven for those fully vaccinated against Covid-19

This change is because of the shorter infectious period of the Omicron variant.

However, the maximum isolation period for unvaccinated individuals aged 12 years old and above will remain at 14 days for both protocols 1 and 2.

This was announced on Friday (Jan 21) at the virtual multi-ministry task force press conference.

Protocol 1 is for those who have tested positive for Covid-19 and show symptoms. 

Protocol 2 is for those who have tested positive but do not show symptoms, but now, apart from asymptomatic individuals, mildly symptomatic (low-risk) individuals can also follow the protocol.

Since Jan 6 this year, Singapore’s healthcare protocols have focused on managing Covid-19 cases based on the severity of their symptoms and individual risk factors.

Lower-risk individuals with mild symptoms can now be immediately diagnosed by their primary care doctors via a healthcare provider-administered antigen rapid test (ART) and recover safely under protocol 2.

Higher risk patients, such as the elderly, pregnant women, paediatrics, immunocompromised status individuals, or with significant symptoms (such as chest pain, shortness of breath, prolonged fever) will be managed under protocol 1.

They will also be assessed for placement on the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Home Recovery Programme, or further management or monitoring in a care facility.

On the other hand, low-risk asymptomatic patients, including those who test positive on self-administered ARTs, will continue to be managed under protocol 2.

MOH said that these arrangements have worked well in ensuring that medical resources go to those who need them the most, and enabled patients to return to normal activity as soon as possible once it is safe for them to do so.

“We will therefore expand the application of protocol 2, to more patient groups and settings,” MOH said.

MOH also announced that the ministry will expand the age bracket suitable for protocol 2 to include children aged five to 11, regardless of their vaccination status. This will take immediate effect.

“We urge those with non-emergency conditions, including children, to avoid seeking treatment at hospitals and to consult their primary care doctor instead,” MOH said.

Those who test ART positive at non-clinical settings but who identify themselves as potentially at risk should still visit a doctor for medical advice even if they feel well, MOH added.

Patients who are on protocol 1, are recovering well and whose symptoms have improved, can also transit smoothly to protocol 2.

This means that they can be discharged earlier and return to normal activities if they test negative on a self administered ART taken 72 hours or more after their first positive Covid-19 test.

This will be progressively put in place in the coming couple of weeks, where protocol 2 can be applied to all low-risk, asymptomatic individuals who are in protocol 1 settings.

These include Covid-19 Treatment Facilities, those who test positive for predeparture tests, pre-event testing, rostered routine testing and mandatory traveller tests and tests taken at the end of stay-home notice periods, so long as their medical conditions allow it.

By Clara Chong

Published : January 22, 2022

By : The Straits Times

No simplistic COVID-19 response for chinese Spring Festival travelers

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China’s National Health Commission on Saturday urged targeted COVID-19 response measures for people traveling home, as the country is seeing more cross-regional trips ahead of the Spring Festival.

No simplistic COVID-19 response for chinese Spring Festival travelers

BEIJING, Jan. 22  — Tailored measures should be applied to people traveling from areas with different risk levels, Mi Feng, a spokesperson for the commission, told a press conference.

Local authorities should not take a simplistic approach to COVID-19 containment by applying a one-size-fits-all policy, nor should they add excessive restrictions, Mi said.

This year’s Spring Festival travel rush began on Jan. 17 and will continue until Feb. 25, with the number of passenger trips expected to reach 1.18 billion, official data shows.

According to data from the commission, the Chinese mainland on Friday recorded 23 new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19. Though there has been a marked drop in the number of domestic infections, Mi said that recent cluster cases indicate the risk of the virus spreading still exists.

Xinhua

Published : January 23, 2022

Xi’an expected to clear all high, medium-risk areas for COVID-19 on Jan. 25

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The northwestern Chinese city of Xi’an is expected to clear all areas classified as high and medium-risk for COVID-19 on Jan. 25, provided no special circumstances arise, a government official said on Saturday.

Xi'an expected to clear all high, medium-risk areas  for COVID-19 on Jan. 25

XI’AN, Jan. 22  — Zhang Fenghu, deputy secretary general of the Xi’an Municipal Government, told a press conference that the prediction was made after careful expert study and evaluation.

Should the prediction become a reality, the ancient city, home to the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, will resume regular prevention and control in most areas, Zhang said.

There are currently two medium-risk areas and one high-risk area in Xi’an.

As of 12 p.m. Saturday, the city had reported 2,053 confirmed local cases, with 1,667 recovered. 

Xinhua

Published : January 23, 2022