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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Indonesia mine collapse death

toll reaches 21 Unstable situation in the tunnel, rocks continuously falling have slowed rescue efforts

n AFP, Timika, Indonesia The death toll from a mine tunnel collapse in eastern Indonesia has risen to 21, the US operator said Tuesday, as rescuers searched for another seven workers now also presumed dead. The accident happened on May 14 at Freeport-McMoRan’s Grasberg, one of the world’s biggest gold and copper mines in mountainous, remote Papua province, and 10 workers were rescued alive soon afterwards. Search teams pulled another four bodies out of the rubble overnight, taking the confirmed toll to 21, according to a statement from Freeport’s Indonesian subsidiary. Rescue efforts have been slow due to the unstable situation at the tunnel, with rocks continuing to fall from the roof. Freeport-McMoRan president and chief executive Richard Adkerson arrived on site at the weekend to visit the injured workers and the families of

those still buried, and hundreds have held prayer ceremonies in Papua and Jakarta. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Monday that the government would “carry out a thorough investigation into the cause of the disaster, the technological factors, and whether there was any negligence”. Operations have been halted at the mine since last week as a mark of respect for those affected by the accident. Workers demanding safer conditions were blocking a road leading to the facility for a seventh day, using heavy machinery, such as dump trucks, and planks of wood. The tunnel was part of an underground training facility, not one of the mining areas. The 38 people inside at the time of the accident were direct employees and contract workers undergoing safety training. l

Workers take part in the rescue effort after a underground training classroom collapsed in Big Gossan at the Grasberg complex in remote West Papua province

Myanmar Muslims jailed for killing Buddhist monk

Obama urges Myanmar to stop violence on Muslims

n AP, Meikhtila, Myanmar

n Reuters, Washington

A Myanmar court sentenced seven Muslims to prison — one of them to a life term — in the killing of a Buddhist monk amid deadly sectarian violence that was overwhelmingly directed against minority Muslims but has produced no serious charges against the members of the country’s Buddhist majority. At least 44 people were killed and 12,000 displaced, most of them Muslim, in more than a week of conflicts with Buddhists that began March 20 in the central Myanmar city of Meikhtila. A dispute at a Muslim-owned gold shop triggered rioting by Buddhists and retaliation by their Muslim targets, and the lynching of the monk after the gold shop was sacked enflamed passions, leading to large-scale violence. While the violence is now contained, questions are arising over whether minority Muslims can find justice in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar. Hundreds more Muslims have been killed, and tens of thousands have been made homeless, in violence across the country over the past year. Thein Than Oo, a lawyer defending the men sentenced Tuesday, said one of his clients, Myat Ko Ko, was given life in prison for murder. Myat Ko Ko was also sentenced to

an additional two years for unlawful assembly and two for religious disrespect. Of the remaining defendants, one received a two-year sentence while the others received terms ranging from six to 28 years. Four of them, including a minor who tried in a separate court, were convicted of abetting murder and other lesser charges, while two defendants were sentenced only on lesser charges not involving murder. Mandalay Advocate General Ye Aung Myint confirmed the sentences. The lynching of the Buddhist monk enflamed passions in Meikhtila, especially after photos circulated widely on social media of what was purported to be his body after he was pulled off a motorbike, attacked and burned. Entire Muslim neighborhoods were engulfed in flames, and charred bodies piled in the roads. The government declared a state of emergency and deployed the army to restore order, but the unrest later spread to other parts of central Myanmar. In parliament in Monday, Religious Affairs Minister Hsan Hsint gave the official figures for casualties and damage over March 20-28: 44 people killed, 90 injured, 1,818 houses, 27 mosques and 14 Islamic schools destroyed. He said 143 people were arrested in connection

World Watch More attacks in Iraq kill 7

Officials say new attacks in Iraq have killed seven people and wounded dozens. A police officer says a suicide blast at a checkpoint, followed by militants who opened fire at Iraqi troops, has killed three soldiers in Tarmiyah. The town is 50 kilometres north of Baghdad. Mayor Shalal Abdool says two parked car bombs went off simultaneously in the northern city of Tuz Khormato, killing three civilians and wounding 38 people there. And in Kirkuk, police Col Taha Salaheddin says three bombs exploded back-to-back at a sheep market, killing one person and wounding 25. Kirkuk is 290 kilometres north of Baghdad.

Uganda police raid newspaper over general’s letter

Ugandan police disabled an independent newspaper’s printing press after forcibly entering its premises to look for evidence against an army general who recently questioned the president’s alleged plan to have his son succeed him, witnesses said Monday. About 50 plainclothes police forced their way into the Daily Monitor’s premises in the capital, Kampala, and prevented all journalists from leaving, said Henry Ochieng, the newspaper’s political editor. News editor Alex Atuhaire said the police presence on the newspaper’s premises was “obviously related” to the case against Gen David Sejusa, who recently wrote to the internal security service ask-

ing for an investigation into reports that those opposed to the president’s son as a future leader could be assassinated.

Toronto mayor urged to step down

The mayor of Canada’s largest city, facing allegations that he smoked crack cocaine, and made racial and homophobic slurs on video, must either refute the accusations or step down, fellow city politicians say. “If the allegations are false, then the mayor is owed some apologies,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who has clashed with Ford on transit issues. “If the allegations are proven true beyond a reasonable doubt, then the mayor should resign.” An editor from US media outlet Gawker and two reporters from the Toronto Star said separately they saw mayor’s video.

with the violence, out of which 47 have been formally charged. Parliament on Tuesday formally approved the state of emergency. The gold shop owner and two employees, all Muslims, were sentenced in April to 14 years in prison each on charges of theft and causing grievous bodily harm. Hsan Hsint did not break down arrests and charges by religion, but no major cases involving Buddhist suspects have been announced. Asked why only Muslims have been charged in Meikhtila, Ye Aung Myint, the advocate general said the courts were starting with the initial incidents that triggered the violence, and those involved in later incidents would be charged subsequently. “There is no discrimination in bringing justice. We dealt with the first two cases and 11 more cases involving Buddhists will be dealt with very soon,” he said, adding that about 70 people will face charges for murder, arson and looting. Thein Sein’s administration, which came to power in 2011 after half a century of military rule, has been heavily criticised for not doing enough to protect Muslims or stop the violence from spreading since it began with clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in western Myanmar last year. l

President Barack Obama urged the president of Myanmar on Monday to halt violence against a Muslim minority but praised economic and political reforms in the formerly pariah nation that is emerging as a US ally in China’s backyard. During the first visit to the White House in 47 years by a leader of the Southeast Asian nation, Obama called for an end to the killings of Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Reformist Myanmar President Thein Sein vowed to resolve ethnic conflicts and bring perpetrators to justice. “I also shared with President Sein our deep concern about communal violence that has been directed at Muslim communities inside Myanmar. The displacement of people, the violence directed towards them needs to stop,” Obama said. As the Myanmar government eases repression, long-simmering ethnic tensions are on the boil - a dynamic that resembles what happened when multi-ethnic Yugoslavia fractured in the 1990s after communism fell. Thein Sein appealed for US “assistance and understanding” as Myanmar attempts difficult reforms. Obama said the Myanmar leader had assured him that he intends to

As the Myanmar government eases repression, longsimmering ethnic tensions are on the boil Rights groups and some US lawmakers fear Obama has moved too quickly since forging a dramatic breakthrough in relations in 2011 after a half century of military rule in Myanmar. US officials argue that reforms by Myanmar - freeing democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of political prisoners, scrapping censorship, legalising trade unions and protests - are transformative and deserve support from Obama, who confirmed the end of Myanmar’s pariah status with the West with a landmark visit last November. “What has allowed this shift in relations is the leadership that President Sein has shown in moving Myanmar down a path of both political and economic reform,” Obama said in the Oval Office. Even critics in Congress of Obama’s Myanmar policy support the US strategic goal of bringing Myanmar, tucked

Guatemala’s top court annuls Rios Montt genocide conviction n Reuters, Guatemala City Guatemala’s highest court on Monday overturned a genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and reset his trial back to when a dispute broke out a month ago over who should hear the case. Rios Montt, 86, was found guilty on May 10 of overseeing the killings by the armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil population during his 1982-83 rule. He was sentenced to 80

years in prison. However, in a ruling on Monday, the country’s Constitutional Court ordered that all the proceedings be voided going back to April 19, when one of the presiding judges suspended the trial because of a dispute with another judge over who should hear it. It was unclear when the trial might restart. Rios Montt’s conviction was hailed as a landmark for justice in the Central American nation, where as many as 250,000 people were killed in a bloody

Measles surges in UK

More than a decade ago, British parents refused to give measles shots to at least a million children because of a vaccine scare that raised the spectre of autism. This year, the UK has had more than 1,200 cases of measles, after a record number of nearly 2,000 cases last year. The country once recorded only several dozen cases every year. It now ranks second in Europe, behind only Romania. Last month, emergency vaccination clinics were held every weekend in Wales, the epicentre of the outbreak. Immunisation drives have also started elsewhere in the country.

release more political prisoners and institutionalise political reforms that have already begun transforming the country and ending its estrangement from the West.

A soldier stands guard at the entrance of the Military Medical Centre, where the former Guatemalan dictator has been undergoing medical treatment since May REUTERS

civil war lasting from 1960 to 1996. When Rios Montt was in power, his government launched a fierce offensive in which soldiers raped, tortured and killed tens of thousands of Maya villagers suspected of helping Marxist rebels. Thousands more were forced into exile or had to join paramilitary forces fighting the insurgents. After he was sentenced, a court ordered the government to apologise for atrocities committed against indigenous people. Rios Montt came to power in a bloodless coup on March 23, 1982, and ruled for 17 months during one of the most brutal phases of the conflict until he was toppled in August 1983. He has repeatedly denied the charges against him. The retired general returned to politics after his fall from power and later unsuccessfully ran for president. For years, he avoided prosecution because he had immunity as a congressman. That ended when he left Congress in 2012. Until August 2011, when four Guatemalan soldiers received 6,060-year prison sentences for mass killings in the northern village of Dos Erres in 1982, no convictions had been handed down for massacres carried out during the war. l


between China and India, out of its isolation from the West. The long US-Myanmar estrangement was a drag on America’s relations with ASEAN, the 10-nation Southeast Asian regional grouping that looks to Washington as a counterbalance to the more assertive China of recent years. In a speech after the White House meeting, Thein Sein described efforts to develop Southeast Asia’s poorest economy, overhaul decrepit institutions, undo the habits of decades of authoritarian rule and build a new, inclusive national identity from dozens of ethnic groups, some of which have been at war for decades. “To achieve all this we need maximum international support, including from the United States, to train and educate, share knowledge, trade and invest, and encourage others to do the same,” he told an audience at a Washington university. He referred to the Muslim killings and said his government “must ensure not only that inter-communal violence is brought to a halt, but that all the perpetrators are brought to justice.” Thein Sein, a retired general, was taken off the US Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals visa blacklist last year to facilitate engagement. l

Israel fires back after Syria shoots at its troops n Reuters, Jerusalem Israeli troops shot at a target across the Syrian frontier on Tuesday in response to gunfire that struck its forces in the Golan Heights, the Israeli military said. A statement said a military vehicle was damaged by shots fired from Syria but that there were no injuries, and that soldiers “returned precise fire”. Gunfire incidents across the frontier from Syria have recurred in past months during an escalating a civil war there. Israel’s Army Radio said Tuesday’s was the third consecutive cross-border shooting this week. The Israeli military also said it viewed these incidents “with concern”. Israel captured the Golan territory from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed the area. Negotiations aimed at resolving that conflict ran aground in 2000. Israel has not taken sides in Syria’s internal conflict, but has been worried about the involvement of its Iranian-backed foe, Hezbollah, in the fighting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held out the prospect on Sunday of Israeli strikes inside Syria to stop Hezbollah and other opponents of Israel getting advanced weapons. l

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