Reuters

Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel in Inn Din village
Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel in Inn Din village, Myanmar, September 1, 2017. Handout via REUTERS

May 27, 2019

By Shoon Naing and Simon Lewis

YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar has granted early release to seven soldiers jailed for the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys during a 2017 military crackdown in the western state of Rakhine, two prison officials, two former fellow inmates and one of the soldiers told Reuters.

The soldiers were freed in November last year, the two inmates said, meaning they served less than one year of their 10-year prison terms for the killings at Inn Din village.

They also served less jail time than two Reuters reporters who uncovered the killings. The journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets. The two were released in an amnesty on May 6.

Win Naing, the chief warden at Rakhine’s Sittwe Prison, and a senior prison official in the capital, Naypyitaw, confirmed that the convicted soldiers had not been in prison for some months.

“Their punishment was reduced by the military,” said the senior Naypyitaw official, who declined to be named.

Both prison officials declined to provide further details and said they did not know the exact date of the release, which was not announced publicly.

Military spokesmen Zaw Min Tun and Tun Tun Nyi declined to comment.

The seven soldiers were the only security personnel the military has said it has punished over the 2017 operation in Rakhine, which drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. U.N. investigators said the crackdown was executed with “genocidal intent” and included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson.

Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and officials have pointed to the jailing of the seven soldiers in the Inn Din case as evidence Myanmar security forces do not enjoy impunity.

“I would say that we took action against every case we could investigate,” the military’s commander in chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, told officials from the U.N. Security Council in April last year, according to an account posted on his personal website.

The army chief cited the Inn Din case specifically. “The latest crime we punished was a killing, and ten years’ imprisonment was given to seven perpetrators,” he said. “We will not forgive anyone if they commit (a) crime.”

Reached by phone on Thursday, a man named Zin Paing Soe confirmed that he was one of the seven soldiers and that he was now free, but declined to comment further. “We were told to shut up,” he said.

‘FIRST STEP’

The 2017 campaign was launched across hundreds of villages in northern Rakhine in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents. Reuters exposed the killings in a report published in February 2018. (Read the story here: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-rakhine-events)

Troops from the 33rd Light Infantry Division, a mobile force known for its brutal counter-insurgency campaigns, worked with members of a paramilitary police force and Buddhist vigilantes to drive out the entire Muslim population of Inn Din, burning and looting Rohingya homes and property, according to Buddhist and Muslim villagers and members of the security forces.

(Read more about the 33rd Light Infantry Division here: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-rohingya-battalions)

On Sept. 1, 2017, soldiers and some villagers detained a group of 10 Rohingya. The military said the men were “terrorists”; their family members said they were farmers, high school students and an Islamic teacher.

The next morning, witnesses said, Buddhist villagers hacked some of the Rohingya men with swords. The rest were shot by Myanmar troops and buried in a shallow grave.

The two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, discovered the grave and obtained pictures of the 10 men before and after they were killed. The journalists were arrested in December 2017 while investigating the killings and later sentenced to seven years in prison under the Official Secrets Act.

Defense lawyers argued their arrest and prosecution were aimed at blocking their reporting, and one police officer testified that a senior police official had ordered that the reporters be set up and arrested.

In April 2018, after launching an investigation into the killings, the military announced that four officers and three soldiers of other ranks had been dismissed from the military and sentenced to 10 years with hard labor for “contributing and participating in murder”. Neither their names nor details of their roles in the killing were disclosed.

Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed the convictions, telling reporters at the time the sentencing was Myanmar’s “first step on the road of taking responsibility”.

Suu Kyi’s spokesman, Zaw Htay, did not pick up a call seeking comment on the release of the seven soldiers.

‘YEAR THAT CHANGED MY LIFE’

Two men who recently spent time in Sittwe Prison told Reuters the seven soldiers were well-known among prisoners there.

“We were in the same building but different cells,” said one of the men, Aung Than Wai, a political activist from Sittwe, who spent nearly six months in prison under a privacy law after he criticized a state official and posted an image of the official online.

Aung Than Wai, who was released from Sittwe in December, said he wanted to speak publicly about the soldiers’ early release because an ethnic Rakhine Buddhist villager also jailed over the Inn Din killings was still in prison. The villager, school teacher Tun Aye, is serving a five-year sentence for murder at Buthidaung Prison in northern Rakhine, said his lawyer, Khin Win.

The convicted soldiers in Sittwe were given beer and cigarettes even though such indulgences were off-limits to other prisoners, Aung Than Wai said.

The soldiers were also visited by army officials, said the second man who was in the prison at the time and asked not to be named. In November, the seven men were taken away in a military vehicle, he said.

The same month, Zin Paing Soe, one of the convicted soldiers, set up a new Facebook account, noting in his biography that he attended the military’s elite Defense Services Academy.

    In one of the account’s first public posts, he said he was looking forward to the end of a year spent mostly in prison.

“When will these unfortunate things end for me?” the post reads. “The year that totally changed my life: Fuck 2018.”

(Editing by Poppy McPherson and Nick Macfie)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton speaks during a graduation ceremony at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London
FILE PHOTO: U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton speaks during a graduation ceremony at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, U.S., May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin

May 27, 2019

SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton is a “war fanatic” who was wrong to conclude that North Korea’s recent missile tests violated United Nations resolutions, the North’s foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state media on Monday.

A statement issued by state news agency KCNA quoted a foreign ministry representative as saying that giving up missile tests would mean giving up the right to self defense.

The representative singled out Bolton, who last week said the recent tests “no doubt” violated U.N. resolutions.

Bolton is working more to destroy peace and security that maintain security, it added.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A man uses his smartphone next to a Japanese traditional Taiko drum during the preprartion for the upcoming Kanda festival in Tokyo
A man uses his smartphone next to a Japanese traditional Taiko drum during A man uses his smartphone next to a Japanese traditional Taiko drum during the preprartion for the upcoming Kanda festival in Tokyo, Japan, May 10, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

May 27, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government said on Monday it will add from August the information-technology and telecommunication sectors to a list of industries for which restrictions on foreign ownership of Japanese firms apply.

The new rule comes amid heightening U.S. pressure in dealing with cyber-security risks and technological transfers involving China.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Papua New Guinea's then Prime Minister Peter O'Neill makes an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia
FILE PHOTO: Papua New Guinea’s then Prime Minister Peter O’Neill makes an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne/File Photo

May 27, 2019

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Political turmoil in Papua New Guinea threatened to delay a $13 billion plan to double the country’s gas exports, sending shares in one of the project’s partners, Oil Search Ltd, down nearly 4% on Monday.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said on Sunday he would resign after weeks of high-level defections from the ruling party. Sir Julius Chan, twice a former premier, would take over as the government’s leader, O’Neill said.

Political instability is not unusual in Papua New Guinea and has not held back mining and energy investments in the resource-rich country, however protests over benefits failing to reach rural areas have dogged the government and project owners.

It was not clear whether Chan could command a majority in parliament when it resumes on Tuesday.

“We will not choose him. It’s a really bad choice,” opposition lawmaker Allan Bird told Reuters in a text message.

“We want a complete break from O’Neill (and) Chan is just a proxy for O’Neill,” he said.

Chan said on Monday he had been approached by both the government and the opposition to take the role.

“This is not a position I am seeking,” he said in a statement. “However, I love Papua New Guinea, and there is a desperate need right now to unite the country … and to make the wealth of this country work to the benefit of the people of this country.”

O’Neill had resisted calls to resign for weeks but his opponents said on Friday they had rallied enough support in parliament to oust him over a range of grievances, including a gas deal agreed in April with France’s Total SA.

The deal with Total set the terms for developing the Elk and Antelope gas fields, which will feed two new liquefied natural gas (LNG) production units at the PNG LNG plant, run by ExxonMobil Corp.

At the same time, ExxonMobil and its partners are planning to build a third new unit at the PNG plant, to be partly fed by another new gas field, P’nyang.

Credit Suisse analyst Saul Kavonic said the political upheaval could put pressure on the government to negotiate tough terms for the P’nyang gas agreement, which is yet to be finalised, and affect talks on development costs.

“Both these factors heighten the risk of delay,” he said in a note to clients.

Any delays in the P’nyang agreement could hold up a final investment decision on the PNG LNG expansion, which is set to double the plant’s capacity to 16 million tonnes a year.

The uncertainty sent shares in Oil Search, a partner in PNG LNG and Papua LNG, down as much as 3.9% in early trading on Monday. Energy stocks rose 0.6%.

ExxonMobil and its partners had hoped to begin basic engineering planning for the expansion by mid-2019 and make a final investment decision in 2020.

They are racing against projects in Mozambique, Qatar, North America and Australia to produce LNG from the expansion by 2024 to fill an expected gap in the global LNG market. ExxonMobil and Total both have LNG projects elsewhere that could take priority if PNG politics delays them, Kavonic said.

RBC analyst Ben Wilson said he did not think a final investment decision in 2020 was at risk yet and played down the threat that the PNG opposition would seek to renegotiate the LNG agreement.

“Sanctity of contract is critical to ongoing investment in PNG and to the success of future potential sovereign bond issuances,” Wilson said.

Total and Oil Search representatives were not immediately available to comment.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Sonali Paul; Editing by Paul Tait)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Worker stands next to robotic arms welding pump truck part at a factory of the Foton Loxa Heavy Machinery Co in Zhangjiakou, Hebei
FILE PHOTO: A worker stands next to robotic arms welding pump truck part at a factory of the Foton Loxa Heavy Machinery Co in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

May 27, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Profits earned by China’s industrial companies contracted in April after a sharp rebound in the previous month, adding to concerns about the already slowing economy in the wake of a recent escalation in Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

Profits in April dropped 3.7% year-on-year to 515.4 billion yuan ($74.80 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics said on its website on Monday, compared with a 13.9% surge in March.

For the first four months of 2019, industrial profits dropped 3.4% on an annual basis to 1.81 trillion yuan.

Industrial firms’ liabilities grew 5.5% from a year earlier to 63.87 trillion yuan by end-April, compared with a 6.5% rise at the end of the first quarter.

The data covers large companies with annual revenues of more than 20 million yuan from their main operations.

($1 = 6.8907 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Worker stands next to robotic arms welding pump truck part at a factory of the Foton Loxa Heavy Machinery Co in Zhangjiakou, Hebei
FILE PHOTO: A worker stands next to robotic arms welding pump truck part at a factory of the Foton Loxa Heavy Machinery Co in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

May 27, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Profits earned by China’s industrial companies contracted in April after a sharp rebound in the previous month, adding to concerns about the already slowing economy in the wake of a recent escalation in Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

Profits in April dropped 3.7% year-on-year to 515.4 billion yuan ($74.80 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics said on its website on Monday, compared with a 13.9% surge in March.

For the first four months of 2019, industrial profits dropped 3.4% on an annual basis to 1.81 trillion yuan.

Industrial firms’ liabilities grew 5.5% from a year earlier to 63.87 trillion yuan by end-April, compared with a 6.5% rise at the end of the first quarter.

The data covers large companies with annual revenues of more than 20 million yuan from their main operations.

($1 = 6.8907 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Worker stands next to robotic arms welding pump truck part at a factory of the Foton Loxa Heavy Machinery Co in Zhangjiakou, Hebei
FILE PHOTO: A worker stands next to robotic arms welding pump truck part at a factory of the Foton Loxa Heavy Machinery Co in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

May 27, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Profits earned by China’s industrial companies contracted in April after a sharp rebound in the previous month, adding to concerns about the already slowing economy in the wake of a recent escalation in Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

Profits in April dropped 3.7% year-on-year to 515.4 billion yuan ($74.80 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics said on its website on Monday, compared with a 13.9% surge in March.

For the first four months of 2019, industrial profits dropped 3.4% on an annual basis to 1.81 trillion yuan.

Industrial firms’ liabilities grew 5.5% from a year earlier to 63.87 trillion yuan by end-April, compared with a 6.5% rise at the end of the first quarter.

The data covers large companies with annual revenues of more than 20 million yuan from their main operations.

($1 = 6.8907 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland
FILE PHOTO:Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland in Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2019. AAP Image/Joel Carrett/via REUTERS

May 27, 2019

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will visit the Solomon Islands next week, two sources familiar with the plans said on Monday, as Western nations seek to rein in China’s influence on the tiny Pacific island.

With the United States and its allies keen to ensure China does not increase its foothold in the Pacific, protecting diplomatic recognition for self-ruled Taiwan has emerged as a flashpoint in regional ties.

“China is the Solomon Islands’ largest trading partner and this is adding a lot of pressure on lawmakers to switch allegiances,” said Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the think-tank, the Lowy Institute.

The Solomon Islands is one of a handful of Pacific countries to recognize Taiwan, a policy now in question after recent elections. China views as Taiwan as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.

On Friday, a senior U.S. official said Washington would help Pacific countries in the face of China’s attempts to influence them.

Those remarks threaten to inflame tension between the U.S. and China already heated by their trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea.

Morrison’s first overseas trip since winning re-election this month will also be the first time an Australian prime minister has visited the Solomon Islands since 2008.

SOFT POWER

Australia and China have been vying for influence in sparsely populated Pacific island countries that control vast swathes of resource-rich oceans.

Keen to undercut China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Australia has directed ever larger amounts of its foreign aid to the region.

In 2018, Australia said it would spend $139 million to develop undersea internet cable links to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, amid national security concerns about China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

That year, Australia became the first country to ban the world’s largest maker of telecom network gear from its nascent broadband network, a step the United States followed this year by effectively banning U.S. firms from doing business with Huawei.

In November, Australia offered Pacific countries up to A$3 billion in grants and cheap loans in build infrastructure, as Morrison declared the region was “our patch”.

Australia has won favor through its spending commitments but its support of its dominant coal industry is a sore point for many in the region.

“There is little doubt that many Pacific islands will have been unhappy with the re-election of Morrison,” said Peter Chen, a political science professor at the University of Sydney. “He will need to find common ground to repair that relationship.”

($1=1.4438 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland
FILE PHOTO:Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland in Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2019. AAP Image/Joel Carrett/via REUTERS

May 27, 2019

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will visit the Solomon Islands next week, two sources familiar with the plans said on Monday, as Western nations seek to rein in China’s influence on the tiny Pacific island.

With the United States and its allies keen to ensure China does not increase its foothold in the Pacific, protecting diplomatic recognition for self-ruled Taiwan has emerged as a flashpoint in regional ties.

“China is the Solomon Islands’ largest trading partner and this is adding a lot of pressure on lawmakers to switch allegiances,” said Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the think-tank, the Lowy Institute.

The Solomon Islands is one of a handful of Pacific countries to recognize Taiwan, a policy now in question after recent elections. China views as Taiwan as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.

On Friday, a senior U.S. official said Washington would help Pacific countries in the face of China’s attempts to influence them.

Those remarks threaten to inflame tension between the U.S. and China already heated by their trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea.

Morrison’s first overseas trip since winning re-election this month will also be the first time an Australian prime minister has visited the Solomon Islands since 2008.

SOFT POWER

Australia and China have been vying for influence in sparsely populated Pacific island countries that control vast swathes of resource-rich oceans.

Keen to undercut China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Australia has directed ever larger amounts of its foreign aid to the region.

In 2018, Australia said it would spend $139 million to develop undersea internet cable links to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, amid national security concerns about China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

That year, Australia became the first country to ban the world’s largest maker of telecom network gear from its nascent broadband network, a step the United States followed this year by effectively banning U.S. firms from doing business with Huawei.

In November, Australia offered Pacific countries up to A$3 billion in grants and cheap loans in build infrastructure, as Morrison declared the region was “our patch”.

Australia has won favor through its spending commitments but its support of its dominant coal industry is a sore point for many in the region.

“There is little doubt that many Pacific islands will have been unhappy with the re-election of Morrison,” said Peter Chen, a political science professor at the University of Sydney. “He will need to find common ground to repair that relationship.”

($1=1.4438 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland
FILE PHOTO:Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland in Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2019. AAP Image/Joel Carrett/via REUTERS

May 27, 2019

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will visit the Solomon Islands next week, two sources familiar with the plans said on Monday, as Western nations seek to rein in China’s influence on the tiny Pacific island.

With the United States and its allies keen to ensure China does not increase its foothold in the Pacific, protecting diplomatic recognition for self-ruled Taiwan has emerged as a flashpoint in regional ties.

“China is the Solomon Islands’ largest trading partner and this is adding a lot of pressure on lawmakers to switch allegiances,” said Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the think-tank, the Lowy Institute.

The Solomon Islands is one of a handful of Pacific countries to recognize Taiwan, a policy now in question after recent elections. China views as Taiwan as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.

On Friday, a senior U.S. official said Washington would help Pacific countries in the face of China’s attempts to influence them.

Those remarks threaten to inflame tension between the U.S. and China already heated by their trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea.

Morrison’s first overseas trip since winning re-election this month will also be the first time an Australian prime minister has visited the Solomon Islands since 2008.

SOFT POWER

Australia and China have been vying for influence in sparsely populated Pacific island countries that control vast swathes of resource-rich oceans.

Keen to undercut China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Australia has directed ever larger amounts of its foreign aid to the region.

In 2018, Australia said it would spend $139 million to develop undersea internet cable links to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, amid national security concerns about China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

That year, Australia became the first country to ban the world’s largest maker of telecom network gear from its nascent broadband network, a step the United States followed this year by effectively banning U.S. firms from doing business with Huawei.

In November, Australia offered Pacific countries up to A$3 billion in grants and cheap loans in build infrastructure, as Morrison declared the region was “our patch”.

Australia has won favor through its spending commitments but its support of its dominant coal industry is a sore point for many in the region.

“There is little doubt that many Pacific islands will have been unhappy with the re-election of Morrison,” said Peter Chen, a political science professor at the University of Sydney. “He will need to find common ground to repair that relationship.”

($1=1.4438 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN


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