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Myanmar protests: Demonstrators ‘fired on’ amid funeral of political organiser said to have died in custody | World News

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Witnesses have said police have opened fire on protesters in Myanmar, amid reports at least one political organiser from the democratically elected government’s party has died in custody.

Several people were wounded in the historic temple city of Bagan, according to witness accounts and videos on social media, while demonstrations were held in at least half a dozen other Myanmar cities.

Residents in the southeastern city of Dawei said soldiers and police moved into several districts overnight, firing shots. They arrested at least three people in Kyauktada Township, residents there said.

Protesters create a shield formation in Nyaung-U, in a still image taken from a video obtained from social media
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Protesters create a shield formation in Nyaung-U

One protest leader said to the crowd in Dawei: “They are killing people just like killing birds and chickens. What will we do if we don’t revolt against them? We must revolt.”

A ward chairman from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party was found dead in a military hospital on Sunday morning by people who lived in his Yangon neighbourhood, according to a post on Facebook by NLD MP Sithu Maung.

Several on social media speculated that U Khin Maung Latt, 58, died after being beaten in custody after being taken from his home, but no official cause of death was immediately announced.

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Reuters news agency said it saw a photograph of his body with a bloodstained cloth wrapped around the head.

Another Facebook poster said he had been arrested on Saturday in 30th Street in Pabedan Township.

There were emotional scenes in Yangon as his funeral was held in accordance with Islamic tradition later on Sunday.

At least three protests were held in Yangon, despite overnight raids by security forces on campaign leaders and opposition activists, and video posted by media group Myanmar Now showed soldiers beating up men.

Meanwhile, police fired tear gas to break up a sit-in demonstration by tens of thousands of people in Mandalay on Sunday.

Protesters run away from tear gas in Mandalay
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Protesters run away from tear gas in Mandalay

Security forces continued to crack down on many of the other protests, which have erupted following last month’s coup.

The United Nations says more than 50 people have been killed by security forces since the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February.

A junta spokesman did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The state-run Global New Light Of Myanmar newspaper reported that police said security forces were dealing with the protests in accordance with law.

Protesters set up a makeshift shield formation in preparation for potential clashes in Yangon
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Protesters set up a makeshift shield formation in preparation for potential clashes in Yangon

More than 1,700 people have been detained by the police and military in Myanmar, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group said. The latest figure did not include overnight detentions.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s authorities claimed an activist who was shot dead could not have been killed by police because the wrong sort of projectile was found in her head.

They had exhumed the body of 19-year-old Kyal Sin, who died during the protests in Mandalay on Wednesday wearing a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK”.

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Moment nun stands up to Myanmar military

State-run MRTV said a surgical investigation showed she had been shot from behind, while police were in front.

Photographs taken on the day showed her head turned away from security forces moments before she was killed.

Opponents of the coup accused the junta of attempting to cover-up their responsibility.

Protesters have demanded the release of Ms Suu Kyi and that military leaders respect the result of November’s election – which her party won in a landslide.

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Myanmar soldier points gun at hidden resident

The army has said it will hold more elections at a date in the future yet to be set.

Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe, hired by Myanmar’s junta to act as a spokesman, told Reuters the military leaders want to leave politics and improve relations with the United States and to distance themselves from China.

He said Ms Suu Kyi had grown too close to China.

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Myanmar junta releases over 23,000 prisoners but fate of detained protesters unknown | World News

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Myanmar’s junta has claimed to have pardoned and released more than 23,000 prisoners – but it is not known if the figure includes pro-democracy activists detained in the wake of February’s coup.

The release was announced to mark the new year holiday.

State broadcaster MRTV said Myanmar‘s military leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing pardoned the 23,047 prisoners, including 137 foreigners who will be deported.

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The strongest weapon in Myanmar is a phone

He also reduced sentences for others.

Early prisoner releases are customary during major holidays, but this is the second time the ruling junta has done so since it ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering daily protests, arrests and deaths by security forces.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors casualties and arrests, government forces have killed at least 726 protesters and bystanders since the takeover.

The group says 2,728 people, including Ms Suu Kyi, are in detention.

Following the release of more than 23,000 convicts to mark Union Day on 12 February, there were reports on social media that some were recruited by the authorities to carry out violence at night in residential areas to spread panic.

Heavy clashes erupted during demonstrations in Yangon on Sunday 28 March
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Heavy clashes erupted during demonstrations in Yangon on Sunday 28 March

Some areas responded by setting up their own neighbourhood watch groups.

The military said it staged the coup because a November election won by Ms Suu Kyi’s party was rigged – an assertion dismissed by the election commission.

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COVID-19: Pandemic has now killed three million across the world – as countries see surge in cases | World News

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The global death toll from coronavirus has topped three million people amid repeated setbacks in the worldwide vaccination campaign and a deepening crisis in places such as Brazil, India and France.

The number of lives lost, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US, is about equal to the population of Kyiv, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; or metropolitan Lisbon, Portugal.

It is bigger than Chicago (2.7 million) and equivalent to Philadelphia and Dallas combined.

However, the true number is believed to be significantly higher because of possible government concealment and the many cases overlooked in the early stages of the outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019.

Worldwide, COVID-19 deaths are on the rise again, running at around 12,000 per day on average, and new cases are climbing too, eclipsing 700,000 a day.

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the World Health Organisation’s leaders on COVID-19.

In Brazil, where deaths are running at about 3,000 per day, accounting for one-quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, the crisis has been likened to a “raging inferno” by one WHO official.

A more contagious variant of the virus has been rampaging across the country.

Meanwhile, problems that India had overcome last year are coming back to haunt health officials.

Recent religious event in India could be behind the surge in cases, experts suggest
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Recent religious event in India could be behind the surge in cases, experts suggest

Only 178 ventilators were free on Wednesday afternoon in New Delhi, a city of 29 million, where 13,000 new infections were reported the previous day.

The challenges facing India reverberate beyond its borders since the country is the biggest supplier of shots to Covax, the UN-sponsored program to distribute vaccines to poorer parts of the world.

Last month, India said it would suspend vaccine exports until the virus’s spread inside the country slows.

The WHO recently described the supply situation as precarious.

Up to 60 countries might not receive any more jabs until June, by one estimate.

To date, Covax has delivered about 40 million doses to more than 100 countries, enough to cover barely 0.25% of the world’s population.

Globally, about 87% of the 700 million doses dispensed have been given out in rich countries.

While one in four people in wealthy nations have received a vaccine, in poor countries the figure is one in more than 500.

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX wins $2.9bn NASA contract to send humans to the moon | Science & Tech News

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Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX has won a $2.9bn (£2.1bn) NASA contract to build a spacecraft to put humans on the moon.

The tech billionaire’s firm was chosen ahead of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defence contractor Dynetics Inc.

Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator, said at a video conference: “We should accomplish the next landing as soon as possible. This is an incredible time to be involved in human exploration, for all humanity.”

SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk
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SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk wants to take humans to Mars

SpaceX will need to complete a test flight “to fully check out all systems with a landing on the lunar surface prior to our formal demonstration mission”, NASA official Lisa Watson-Morgan told reporters.

Mr Musk is one of the world’s richest people thanks to his 22% stake in electric car maker Tesla, now the world’s most valuable vehicle manufacturer.

His publicly stated aim is to put humans on Mars – but so far, SpaceX has mainly been used to launch satellites for his Starlink internet venture, and other satellites and space cargo.

The SpaceX programme has suffered considerable teething problems, with another failed landing for its prototype Starship spacecraft last month.

The previous three exploded at touchdown or shortly afterwards.

Those setbacks do not appear to have affected investors’ confidence in his schemes, however, as SpaceX said on Wednesday it had raised about $1.16bn (£838m) in equity financing.

SpaceX lost another Starship, here seen launching in thick fog, in a botched landing on Tuesday
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SpaceX lost another Starship, here seen launching in thick fog, in a botched landing

NASA’s plan is get back to the moon and using that as a platform to send astronauts to Mars and it is looking to team up with private companies that share its vision for space exploration.

In December, NASA announced 18 astronauts who could be involved in plans to get back to the moon by 2024.

Jeff Bezos. Pic: AP
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NASA’s decision is a setback for Jeff Bezos. Pic: AP

It’s a setback for Mr Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast and one of the world’s richest people, who is more focused on his space venture after deciding to step down as Amazon CEO.

The NASA deal was seen as a way for Blue Origin to establish itself as a desired partner for NASA, and also putting the venture on the road to turning a profit.

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