Myanmar crackdown widens as terrified residents flee

SITTWE ― Terrified residents fled northern Myanmar yesterday, thousands evacuating on foot and others airlifted out by helicopter, as troops hunted through torched villages for those behind attacks on police that have raised fears Rakhine state could again be torn apart.

Local officials believe a series of attacks on police posts along the Bangladesh border this week that sparked the crisis were planned for months by hundreds of people from inside the region, home to many from the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority.

Dozens of people have died in clashes with troops after the military locked down the area, sparking fears of a repeat of 2012 when sectarian clashes ripped through Rakhine leaving more than 100 dead and driving tens of thousands into displacement camps.

Families streamed down the roads around Maungdaw town on foot on Thursday, their worldly possessions stuffed into carrier bags and plastic buckets or strapped to the front of bicycle rickshaws.

Around 180 teachers, workers and residents were airlifted out of the region at the epicentre of the crisis, while hundreds of government staff poured into the state capital Sittwe fleeing the mounting unrest.

On the ground in Maungdaw, an AFP journalist reported seeing clouds of smoke billowing from a village Thursday near charred remains of two dozen bamboo houses that the military said “terrorists” had torched the previous day.

Troops have killed 26 people since deadly raids on border posts Sunday, according to state media. Nine police died that night, and four more soldiers have lost their lives in ensuing clashes.

Most residents in northern Rakhine are Rohingya, a stateless minority branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by many from Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.

Witnesses say troops have used investigations of Sunday’s attacks as an excuse for a crackdown against them, gunning down unarmed Muslim civilians in the street. The military say they have been defending themselves from armed attackers.

Rakhine state government spokesman Min Aung said the border post assailants had spent months plotting the raids, which were originally intended to hit as many as seven targets.

“There are about 200 to 300 currently in the group,” he told reporters in Sittwe, declining to explain how he knew. “According to our interrogations of those we have arrested, they initially planned to attack six or seven locations.”

Authorities have given scant details of who was behind the attacks, though officials have publicly pointed the finger at Rohingya insurgents and privately blamed Bangladeshi groups across the border.

The military said late Thursday troops had captured a fifth suspect, along with a gun, ammunition and flags featuring the logo of the RSO, a Rohingya militant group founded in the 80s and long considered defunct. The RSO vigorously denied the accusations in an email to AFP.

The escalating unrest in Rakhine poses a major challenge for the country’s new elected government, led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Nobel laureate has faced international criticism for not doing more to help the Rohingya, and on Wednesday she vowed to follow the rule of law when investigating the border guard attacks.

The commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s army, Min Aung Hlaing, has sought to play down the violence, saying the “current issues in Rakhine were not brought about by religious conflict”. ― AFP

Rockets hit Turkish tourist town

ISTANBUL — Two rockets, apparently aimed at a fuel tanker, hit a fish store and open ground near a resort town in the province of Antalya in southern Turkey yesterday and did not cause any casualties, the privately owned Dogan news agency reported.

It said the rockets were fired from a mountainous area near the road between the city of Antalya and the resort town of Kemer. Ambulances and special forces police were sent to the area.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible, but Kurdish and far-left militants have staged similar attacks, mostly against the security forces, in the past.

Three Turkish soldiers were wounded in an armed attack on their military vehicle near Antalya in August. — Reuters


This bus ain’t going nowhere

This bus ain’t going nowhere

Thirty-five foreign workers were injured when the bus they were travelling in crashed into a divider and landed on its side in Putrajaya yesterday. The construction workers were travelling from the Putrajaya International Convention Centre towards Alamanda when the accident took place about 7.30am. The victims are receiving treatment at Putrajaya Hospital. — Picture by Bernama

PKR-PAS cooperation desperate move, says Amanah

PETALING JAYA — Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) raises concern over Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) political cooperation with PAS in Selangor which it describes as a desperate act to retain the state in the next general election.

Amanah communications director Khalid Samad said PKR strongly believed it needed PAS’ support to retain Selangor.

“I am sure PKR needs our support and may be forced to allow us and PAS to contest for the same seats in Selangor,” he said.

“PKR cannot abandon us in favour of PAS because we are part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.”

Khalid also did not discount the possibility of him facing three-cornered fights in the next general election.

“We tried to iron out our differences with PAS before, to have straight fights in the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections, but to no avail,” he said.

Khalid said he did not think PAS would extend its cooperation to Amanah and DAP, adding that PAS would rather go alone in the next general election.

Meanwhile, PKR vice-president Tian Chua downplayed the issue and was confidence that the planned straight fights would be a reality if the Opposition was united.

“I am sure PKR would still maintain its cooperation with PAS and we would continue to work for the benefit of the people in Selangor.”

He also said the Opposition needed to learn from mistakes as the constant fighting would only be detrimental to the pact.

“We have to show that we are ready for straight fights and agree to a ceasefire. We should move as a united front in all our efforts to seek victory in the next general election,” he said.

PAS vice-president Idris Ahmad said the party would not cooperate with DAP or Amanah again, and is willing to face three-cornered fights in the general election.

“We do not want to repeat our mistakes. We have promised to safeguard Islam as our main agenda,” he said.

Idris said the cooperation with DAP in the previous general election was based on the consensus of the three parties for political cooperation.

“We would never work with our former comrades who betrayed the party (referring to Amanah),” he said.

The issue of seat allocations remains a thorny issue for Pakatan Harapan, especially when DAP had pledged to give Amanah to contest eight state seats currently held by PAS.

Selangor DAP chairman Tony Pua said the party was now preparing to place its candidates in eight state seats — Taman Templer, Lembah Jaya, Paya Jaras, Sri Serdang, Meru, Chempaka, Dusun Tua and Tanjung Sepat.

Ku Nan: Build low rental houses

KUALA LUMPUR — The Federal Territories Ministry plans to create cheap rental homes specifically for youth with low income.

Its minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, or Ku Nan, said the project was aimed to help the targeted group with rentals between RM50 and RM80 a month.

“This is to make it affordable for those working in Kuala Lumpur with low salaries, especially those in the services industry such as hotels and restaurants,” he said.

“We plan to build units at 650 sq ft each with three rooms, bathrooms and a dining hall. The apartment will be located near LRT stations and have parking for motorcyles,” he said after the breaking ground ceremony for Pantai Sentral Park interchange here on Thursday.

The interchange is estimated to cost RM52 million and it is a 2.8km link that will connect the 23.4ha Pantai Sentral Park mixed-development and Pantai Dalam or Kerinchi area to the New Pantai Expressway.

It is expected to ease traffic congestion in the city by 30 per cent and it is expected to be completed in February 2018. The project is jointly developed by Amona Development Sdn Bhd and IJM Land Berhad.

Tengku Adnan requested both the developers to build 896 affordable houses — with the price tag of below RM245,000 a unit — to enable the public to own houses in Pantai Sentral Park.


Emergency response centres on standby for king tide

KLANG — Residents in coastal and low lying areas are assured measures are in place and relevant agencies are prepared to respond to emergencies in the wake of the king tide phenomenon expected this weekend.

Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri said repair works to bunds and ramparts, elevated to prevent flooding have been constructed by the Drainage and Irrigation Department in villages affected by the same phenomenon last month.

“The department has also provided 21 pumps to draw out the spillover water from the sea,” he said after inspecting the repair works on bunds and embankments in Kampung Sungai Serdang and Kampung Tok Muda in Kapar, yesterday.

The Selangor Disaster Management Committee forecast a rise in sea levels to be at its highest — almost 5.7 metres — between tomorrow and Wednesday, causing some coastal areas to be at risk of flooding.

Commenting on the repairing of the bunds and embankments, Hamim said the ministry approved an allocation of RM500,000 for immediate implementation of the work in Kampung Sungai Serdang, Kampung Tok Muda and Kampung Sungai Janggut, Kapar.

Regarding the long term preparation to face the phenomenon, he said, the department estimated that about RM416 million is needed for protection of coastal areas for the entire west coast of peninsular Malaysia.

Among the states involved are Perlis, Penang, Perak, Kedah, Selangor, Malacca and Johor.

The Sept 19 king tide, which struck the peninsula’s west coastline, brought flash floods to low lying areas, causing undisclosed property damage.

Following that, authorities concluded these were the same areas which would be at risk from the second king tide phenomenon.

Numerous reminders have been sent to residents living by the coast.

Authorities believe the areas which could be affected are Klang, Pulau Ketam, Sabak Bernam, Kuala Selangor, Sepang, and Kuala Langat.

More than 450 evacuation centres will be operational to take care of victims from flood prone and coastal areas in the state.

The National Disaster Management Agency has been put on standby to respond with equipment, manpower and ensure relief centres were operational.

In Johor, flood prone areas have been identified in anticipation of the king tide and state Health and Environment Committee chairman, Datuk Ayub Rahmat, said this would enable them to respond swiftly to emergencies.
— Bernama

Stay away from coast, holiday makers warned

GEORGE TOWN — Picnickers and holiday revellers should take heed and stay away from the coast, as authorities are bracing for another king tide phenomenon.

Also known as high tide season, authorities are not leaving anything to chance after last month’s king tide episode brought high and strong waves to the peninsula’s west coastline.

This time, they fear the king tide phenomenon could be on a larger scale with massive waves and strong winds.

State Civil Defence director Lieutenant Colonel Pang Ah Lek said the areas affected last month were expected to be hit again this weekend and urged residents to safeguard their important documents and belongings.

“The situation could be aggravated if there were heavy rain and strong winds as the flood waters would take longer to recede.”

He assured the department was prepared to face any situation of tidal waves along the coast on the island and Seberang Prai.

“We have sufficient personnel for the rescue work and at relief centres if residents have to be moved out of their villages.”

Among areas of concern for emergency response teams were Teluk Bahang, Teluk Kumbar and Balik Pulau, while on the mainland, north Seberang Prai, Pulau Aman and Sungai Udang in the south are expected to be affected.

“We have personnel monitoring the situation, especially at night and during the wee hours,” he said.

A total of 18 trucks and 24 rescue boats have been placed on standby.

In Pantai Remis (Perak), villagers living by the coastline are prepared this time around after they were caught unaware by flash floods and strong waves last month.

Villagers at Kampung Panchor have been preparing to face the king tide by placing their electrical items and furniture on higher grounds.

Sarimah Shariff, 33, said when king tide hit her village last month, they found themselves in waist-deep water.

“At that time, I lost my refrigerator to flood waters as the tide came in early in the morning when everyone was asleep,” she said.

Learning from last month’s experience, she raised the storage area.

“Personnel from the National Disaster Management Agency and Fire and Rescue Department came to our village last week informing us of the king tide and told us to be ready for any eventualities,” she said.

The authorities also informed her that villagers would be evacuated to SK Panchor in the event of flash floods.

Another villager Mohd Bokhairie Mohd Yusof, 18, was seen helping to put sand into bags to form walls to protect the village.

“We started building the walls on Tuesday and work is expected to be completed by tomorrow (today),” he said.

In Teluk Intan, villagers at Kampung Teluk Selendang have started to move valuables to higher ground in anticipation of high tide.


Upin & Ipin charm their way to China

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian animated television series Upin and Ipin are set to take China by storm.

Since it premiered in 2007, it charmed almost everybody, and now discussions are underway for an Upin and Ipin theme park in Shanghai.

Burhanuddin Radzi, 60, managing director of animation studio Les’ Copaque Production Sdn Bhd, is the driving force behind the franchise.

An engineer by trade, he took a risk when he set up Les’ Copaque in 2005 despite having no background in animation.

“We were invited by several Chinese investors interested in building a theme park in Shanghai,” he told Malay Mail Afternoon E-Paper during an interview at his headquarters in Shah Alam.

“Discussions are still under way, but if everything goes as planned we could see other theme parks in Beijing, Urumqi,
and Hainan.”

It might come as a surprise since Upin and Ipin’s reach outside the Asean region is via YouTube, which is unavailable
in China.

The series’ universal appeal is precisely why investors are keen on building the theme park.

“Efforts are also underway to launch Upin and Ipin on Youko (China’s alternative to YouTube) I’m confident the Mandarin dub will prove to be a hit, similar to how the original version in Bahasa Malaysia is popular in Indonesia,” he said.

Yet getting the series onto Youko may turn out to be easy as Burhanuddin said one of the things they were requested to work out was setting up an Upin and Ipin channel in Malaysia to broadcast to the Chinese market.

“It will work both ways. A channel would give investors opportunity to push for the programme over there, while it enables cultural exchanges to take place as well. It is still early, but it looks like the possibilities are endless,” he said.

Last month, Upin and Ipin grabbed the limelight after being featured in Unicef’s version of John Lennon’s Imagine.

They were the only animated characters in the clip.

This article first appeared in the Malay Mail Afternoon E-Paper yesterday.


Penang to diversify tourist attractions

GEORGE TOWN — Penang, better known for its Unesco heritage sites in George Town city, as well as its street food, is diversifying its attractions to museums, eco and agro-tourism.

State Tourism Malaysia director Mazlan Araju said the food and heritage in the city area do not need added publicity as they are reasonably well known internationally, but currently there are many other unique attractions in the state.

“We have attractions such as in Phantamania and ghost museum which showcases ghosts from five different countries,” he said during a tour of the museums yesterday.

Strategically located at Victoria street in the heart of the George Town heritage enclave and a five-minute walk from the ferry terminal plus a 15-minute stroll from Komtar, Phantamania, the first castle of illusion in Asia combines elements of special effects and eye tricks.

Inside the museum, there are about 23 major attractions such as the Frozen theme area, mirror maze, Narnia door, a passage through space illusion and much more.

Its head of business development, Hazlami Rosli said the museum offered visitors surreal experience with limitless creative photo opportunities.

“We provide customers costumes to suit the atmosphere and the photos taken here are guaranteed to be stunning,” he said.

The museum, which opened its doors daily from 10am to 7pm since July, received an encouraging response from the public especially from tourists.

Besides Phantamania, the ghost museum at Lebuh Melayu and just a 10-minute walk from Phantamania, gives visitors an understanding on ghosts from five different countries (Malaysia, Thailand, China, Japan and Western countries).

The museum’s manager Pauline Oon said approximately RM1.5 million was spent to develop the museum and a year’s research to choose which ghost and history to be showcased.

“The museum will debunk the fear of people towards ghosts as every ghost has a story of its own created by their ancestors as a lesson for the younger generation besides amazing photo chances,” she said.

Pauline said so far the response from the public was amazing and a majority of the museum’s visitors were locals.

Mazlan said beside the attractions in the George Town heritage enclave, the tourism department is working closely with tourism and homestay operators in the southern part of Penang island.

He believed the sales for Penang tourism recorded from the previous Matta fair last month was impressive. — Bernama


Grieving Thais salute late king

BANGKOK — Massive crowds of weeping Thais and saluting soldiers lined the streets yesterday as late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was borne through Bangkok, a day after his death left an apprehensive country facing an uncertain future.

Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, passed away at 88 on Thursday after years of ill health, ending seven decades as a stabilising figure in a nation of deep political divisions.

The phenomenal reverence towards him in Thailand was on clear display as mourners sat for hours in Bangkok’s urban heat awaiting the passage of his motorcade, in scenes reminiscent of religious devotees.

Pensive-looking men and women dressed in black were jammed cheek by jowl along roadsides in the capital on the short route from the hospital where Bhumibol died to his royal palace.

Some fainted and were carried away on stretchers, while others shouted “King of the people!” as the convoy of several vans bearing his body and the royal family slowly wheeled through hushed streets.

The king ruled 70 years and was the only monarch most Thais knew.

“We no longer have him,” wept Phongsri Chompoonuch, 77, as she clutched the late monarch’s portrait.

“I don’t know whether I can accept that. I fear, because I don’t know what will come next.”

At the palace, the crown prince was to preside over the bathing of the king’s body, a traditional Buddhist funeral rite and the start of official mourning that will include at least 100 days of chanting by monks and months more of palace rituals.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, is the king’s named successor but has made a surprise request to delay formally assuming the throne, according to Thailand’s junta leader, who appealed for citizens to “not cause chaos”.

Bhumibol was seen as a pillar of stability during his politically turbulent reign, and uncertainty for the future rests largely on doubts over whether his son can exert the same calming moral authority.

The crown prince spends much of his time overseas and does not command the reverence at home that his father did.

There was no indication of a threat to the crown prince’s eventual succession, however, and analysts said the pause could merely be out of respect for the deeply revered king.

Strict lese majeste laws muffle detailed discussion of the sensitive succession issue.

Bhumibol’s reign saw decades of rapid economic development but also frequent military coups that set back democracy.

Although the king approved most of the army’s many successful coups, he also sometimes intervened to quell political violence, and his loss worries many Thais.

“Now I am afraid of what may happen, about the administration of the country, the type of regime in the long term,” said Arnon Sangwiman, a 54-year-old electricity company employee.

Government offices and state-run enterprises were closed out of respect yesterday, but commercial activity otherwise carried on.

Stocks, pressured all week as the king’s health worsened, rebounded yesterday, with the benchmark index closing 4.59 per cent higher.

Authorities continued to interrupt all television programming in the country — including international networks such as the BBC and CNN — using their signals to broadcast non-stop hagiographic fare on the king’s life.

But colour was restored, a day after all TV images were transmitted in black and white out of mourning.

Praise for Bhumibol’s role as a ruler devoted to his subjects has poured in from across the globe including from US President Barack Obama and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. — AFP

E-Paper Article View