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In Pictures: Mining tin from the sea in Indonesia | Indonesia News

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From the shores of Indonesia’s Bangka island, miners like Hendra head out by boat every day to a fleet of crudely built wooden pontoons off the coast that are equipped to dredge the seabed for lucrative deposits of tin ore.

Indonesia is the world’s biggest exporter of tin used in everything from food packaging to electronics and now green technologies.

But deposits in the mining hub of Bangka-Belitung have been heavily exploited on land, leaving parts of the islands off the southeast coast of Sumatra island resembling a lunar landscape with vast craters and highly acidic, turquoise lakes.

Miners are instead turning to the sea.

“On land, our income is diminishing. There are no more reserves,” said Hendra, 51, who shifted to work in offshore tin mining about a year ago after a decade in the industry.

“In the ocean, there are far more reserves.”

Often grouped around undersea tin seams, the ramshackle encampments of pontoons emit plumes of black smoke from diesel generators that rumble so loudly that workers use hand gestures to communicate.

Hendra, who uses one name like many Indonesians, operates six pontoons, each manned by three to four workers, with pipes that can be over 20 metres (66 feet) long to suck up sand from the seabed.

The pumped mixture of water and sand is run across a bed of plastic mats that traps the glittery black sand containing tin ore.

Hendra is among scores of artisanal miners who partner with PT Timah to exploit the state miner’s concessions.

The miners are paid about 70,000 to 80,000 rupiah ($4.90 to $5.60) for each kilogramme of tin sand they pump up, and a pontoon typically produces about 50kg a day, Hendra said.

Timah has been ramping up production from the sea. Company data shows its proven tin reserve on land was 16,399 tonnes last year, compared with 265,913 tonnes offshore.

The huge expansion, coupled with reports of illegal miners targeting offshore deposits, has heightened tension with fishermen, who say their catches have collapsed due to steady encroachment on their fishing grounds since 2014.

Fisherman Apriadi Anwar said that, in the past, his family earned enough to pay for his two younger siblings to go to university, but in recent years, they have barely scraped by.

“Nevermind going to university, these days it’s difficult to even buy food,” said Apriadi, 45, who lives in Batu Perahu village.

Apriadi said fishing nets can get tangled up in offshore mining equipment while trawling the seabed to find seams of ore that has polluted once-pristine waters.

“Fish are becoming scarce because the coral where they spawn is now covered with mud from the mining,” he added.

Indonesian environmental group Walhi has been campaigning to stop mining at sea, especially on Bangka’s western coast, where the mangroves are relatively well-preserved.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Myanmar’s pro-Rohingya social media campaign gathers mass support | Rohingya News

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Hundreds of thousands of Myanmar’s anti-military government protesters have flooded social media with pictures of themselves wearing black in a show of solidarity with the Rohingya, a minority group that is among the most persecuted in the country.

Since the military overthrew civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power in a February 1 coup, an anti-military movement demanding a return to democracy has grown to include fighting for ethnic minority rights.

The mostly-Muslim Rohingya – long viewed as interlopers from Bangladesh by many in Myanmar – have for decades been denied citizenship, rights, access to services and freedom of movement.

In 2017, a bloody military campaign in Myanmar’s west sent about 740,000 Rohingya fleeing across the border into Bangladesh carrying accounts of rape, mass killings and arson.

The military has long claimed the crackdown was justified to root out rebels, and Aung San Suu Kyi defended the army’s conduct by travelling to the Hague to rebut charges of genocide at the UN’s top court.

The Myanmar public was largely unsympathetic to the Rohingya’s plight, while activists and journalists reporting on the issues faced vitriolic abuse online.

On Sunday, activists and civilians took to social media to post pictures of themselves wearing black and flashing a three-finger salute of resistance, in posts tagged “#Black4Rohingya”.

“Justice must [be] served for each of you and each of us in Myanmar,” prominent rights activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi said on Twitter.

Local media also showed a small protest in Myanmar’s commercial hub Yangon, with black-clad demonstrators holding signs in Burmese that said they were “protesting for the oppressed Rohingya”.

By the evening, the #Black4Rohingya hashtag was trending on Twitter in Myanmar with more than 332,000 mentions.

Sunday’s show of support from the mostly Buddhist, ethnic Bamar-majority population is a far cry from previous years when even using the term “Rohingya” was a lightning rod for controversy.

‘Solidarity is important’

Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, told Al Jazeera that the #Black4Rohingya campaign has “received a huge support and solidarity from our fellow Burmese this year”.

“In the past, we only had international supporters but since the coup, we have received public apologies from individuals and organisations in Myanmar,” he added.

“The solidarity from our fellow Burmese is very important for us. We were friendless in our own country, regarded like enemies, intruders, interlopers and sub-humans but now many of them accepted Rohingya as their fellow citizens. Many of them realised that they were brainwashed by the military.

“The people who used to call us ‘Bengali’ are now calling us Rohingya. That means they are now respecting the very basic human rights.”

Prominent Europe-based Rohingya activist Ro Nay San Lwin told AFP news agency the online campaign is an annual effort to raise awareness but Sunday was “the first time” he had seen it go viral in Myanmar.

“I am so happy to see those inside Myanmar joined this campaign. I am more hopeful to have a stronger solidarity from them,” he said.

The shadow National Unity Government (NUG) – made up of overthrown lawmakers of Myanmar working to topple the military from power – has also extended an olive branch to the minority group, inviting them to “join hands… to participate in this Spring Revolution” in a recent announcement.

The NUG has been branded as “terrorists” by the military regime, while military leader Min Aung Hlaing has dismissed the word “Rohingya” as “an imaginary term”.

Since the coup earlier this year, more than 860 people have been killed in brutal crackdowns by security forces, according to a local monitoring group – a death toll that has drawn alarm from the international community.

On Friday, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Myanmar has plunged from a “fragile democracy to a human rights catastrophe” – pointing with particular concern at the escalating violence in regions like Kayah, Chin and Kachin states.

State-run television on Sunday evening condemned Bachelet’s comments, saying that the international body “should not be biased”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Desperately seeking relevance: NATO in the 21st century | NATO

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It is the largest military alliance on the planet, it is more than 70 years old and, for many within NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), it is only just getting going.

A Cold War creation, NATO was established in 1949 as a bulwark against the colossal Soviet armies based in Eastern Europe in the wake of the Second World War.

This system of US-led collective security, initially consisting of 10 Western European countries, Canada and the United States, helped avert any thoughts by the Soviet Union (USSR) of expanding further westward, helping maintain an uneasy, tension-fraught peace in Europe for decades.

Secretary of State Dean Acheson signs the Atlantic defence treaty for the United States on April 4, 1949, as Vice President Alben W. Barkley, left, and President Harry Truman watch on [File: AP Photo]

But NATO has struggled to redefine its role and relevance since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, despite expanding its domains to include outer space and cyberspace, and recently refocussing some of its attention on its old nemesis, Russia.

It now also extends far beyond Europe, past Iraq and Afghanistan, to its new main concern, China.

Noble beginnings

In the years following World War II, NATO evolved from a desire among European nations to protect themselves from any further aggression that might, once again, engulf the continent.

Europe lay in ruins, its economies shattered, its resources and manpower depleted. Two superpowers had emerged from the war, the United States and the USSR. Joseph Stalin, ruler of the Soviet Union, had quickly assimilated most of Eastern Europe. Collective security for Western Europe, under the aegis of the United States, seemed the perfect solution. The North Atlantic Treaty Alliance was thus born in 1949 out of fear of Soviet intimidation and its potential for westward expansion. America had lost nearly 400,000 lives in the war but its economy and industries were thriving, giving it the fiscal clout not only to keep its own large standing of armed forces but to help those of Western Europe.

While the emergence of NATO certainly helped ease European nations of their fears of another major conflict, the continent would nevertheless become the arena for the opening stages of what could become a nuclear war in a matter of hours, if not days.

Increasingly concerned by the growth of NATO, the Communist Eastern Bloc in turn looked to form its own system of collective security. In 1955, the Warsaw Pact was formed by the Soviet Union and seven Eastern European countries, spurred on partly by West Germany joining NATO earlier that year.

Soviet leaders draft a treaty to establish a unified military command to rival NATO in the parliament building in Warsaw, Poland on May 14, 1955. From left to right: Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev, supreme commander of the alliance; Vyacheslav M. Molotov, Soviet foreign minister; Premier Nikolai Bulganin; and defence minister Georgi Zhukov [File: AP Photo]

Both sides had integrated nuclear weapons into all levels of their tactical and strategic thinking. To illustrate how extensive the use of nuclear weapons was, the Czech army for example, although only a minor Warsaw Pact country, had plans to launch more than 80 nuclear weapons at ports, marshalling yards and troop concentrations in the event of a major conflict.

By the mid-1960s, similar plans were held by most of the major NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. With the real danger of Europe being reduced to radioactive rubble, a brutal impasse emerged, with the tacit understanding that any overt military act against another military would end in catastrophe for everyone concerned. It is in this risk-averse environment that NATO operated, with success throughout the Cold War period.

Russian fear of encirclement

Yet despite the collapse of Communism, the crumbling of the Soviet Union and the subsequent dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, NATO kept going. Instead of being dissolved – as there was no longer any Soviet Union to contain – NATO expanded, going from 16 to 30 member states following the Soviet collapse.

Former rivals from the Warsaw Pact, in fact most of Eastern Europe, were absorbed into a Western alliance whose mandate was to protect itself from Russia and limit its expansion. From a Russian point of view, this felt like containment all over again. The Alliance was repeatedly warned that Russia would not tolerate any of the states bordering its territory becoming members.

To understand how alarmed Russia is by NATO’s expansion east, imagine how the United States would feel if Canada and/or Mexico had become members of the Warsaw Pact. An intolerable notion for the US, with much justification.

This Russian fear of encirclement is one of the many reasons the conflict in Eastern Ukraine continues to smoulder. Ukraine has repeatedly asked to join NATO but it is in NATO’s charter not to accept any new member state that is involved in an existing conflict. Tacit Russian military involvement and the subsequent fighting in Donetsk effectively bars Ukraine from membership of the Alliance.

Delegations from seven European Communist countries at the summit meeting of the Warsaw Pact, on March 17, 1969, in Budapest, Hungary [File: AP Photo]

Furthermore, hard lessons were learned by Russia in the brushfire conflicts of Chechnya in the 1990s and Georgia in 2008. Despite eventual Russian victories, the conflicts exposed crucial deficiencies in tactics and training. It was clear that Russia’s armed forces were poorly equipped and did not have the training to leverage military technology to their advantage, as Western military forces had.

Russia sought to benefit from its past mistakes and adapt effectively to modern warfare, leading it to embark on a crash modernisation programme, increasing investment and focusing on a smaller, more professional army that is far better trained and equipped.

The real reason for joining NATO – members with benefits?

The clash of ideas between NATO and the Warsaw Pact has always been painted as democracy versus authoritarianism, as well as the notion that the NATO of today is a confluence of like-minded democratic ideals and of shared values.

A great idea, but it flies in the face of reality. Blind eyes were turned when the Greek and Turkish militaries overthrew their respective civilian governments during the Cold War in the 1960s. More recently, very little action has been taken by NATO member states over the Hungarian and Polish governments’ increasing lack of tolerance for political dissent, as they slide dangerously towards autocracy.

For the most part, the premise that NATO upholds an ideal of democracy may be true, however, the exceptions are ignored, especially if the countries concerned are in strategic locations, such as Poland, which borders Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave, and Belarus, a Russian strategic ally.

While the NATO alliance affords a good measure of protection by deterring any thought of military action against a member state, that is not the only reason to join. Other reasons are the tangible military benefits that member states will receive and the political, military and logistical leverage provided by the US that is so useful and so sought after – namely the soft side of American hard power.

The United States has wielded this vast power for decades, not just in obvious military capabilities but in the areas in which most European nations are lacking: Intelligence gathering; logistical supply chains; strategic transport aircraft; helicopters and a vast body of military expertise and know-how that would simply cost too much for most nations to reproduce. In return, the US gets the right to establish military bases in these countries and is able to influence each country’s strategic thinking to a certain degree, comfortable with the notion that most countries would choose to follow a path laid out by the United States rather than opt out of the Alliance altogether.

Citizens of West Berlin hold a vigil on the Berlin Wall on November 10, 1989 [File: Stringer/Reuters]

Although critics of NATO focus on the pre-eminence of the US, imagine how NATO would fare without the help of the United States. Just over a decade ago, on June 10, 2011, the then US defence secretary Robert Gates stood in front of his NATO colleagues and assembled European dignitaries in what was his last major policy speech. In it, he berated the Alliance and castigated the Europeans for their lack of foresight, ineptitude and reliance on America’s endless help. The war in Afghanistan had exposed NATO’s shortcomings in being able to maintain 25,000 to 40,000 troops there, despite collectively having more than 2 million non-US personnel at its disposal.

Gates was especially blunt when it came to the recently unfolding conflict in Libya. It is worth quoting some of the extracts from his speech, entitled Reflections on the Status and Future of the Transatlantic Alliance:

“…while every alliance member voted for [the] Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission. Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t. The military capabilities simply aren’t there … Furthermore, the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the US, once more, to make up the difference.”

He went on to draw a sharp line under the point made that Europeans need to do more – a lot more – if they want the United States to continue to support the NATO Alliance:

“Indeed, if current trends in the decline of European defence capabilities are not halted and reversed, future US political leaders – those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrive for a news conference during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, on March 23, 2021 [File: Yves Herman, Pool via AP]

Yet, despite Gates’s frankness, very little was actually done by Europeans who were also going through their own fiscal convulsions as the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 made itself increasingly felt in all walks of life.

It took the mercurial Trump administration to finally push member states to pledge they would increase their own defence spending, relieving some of the burden on the United States, whose focus was increasingly on a newly invigorated China, its military expansion now causing great alarm for both the West and the US’s Asia-Pacific allies.

Pivot east

NATO has justified its new focus on China as a “collective defence” against what it views as Chinese encroachment on European interests.

Key ports, such as the Port of Piraeus in Greece, one of the largest in Europe, are now majority-owned by Chinese companies, as they have sought to buy up commercially strategic properties for sale that could benefit China.

Added to this are increased Chinese naval patrols in the Atlantic and China’s rising interest in the Arctic as well as the economic viability of the Northeast Passage over the top of Russia. This new route, just recently made possible by the thawing of Arctic ice sheets, has the potential to save thousands of kilometres on every commercial voyage to and from northern Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and China.

This increased activity in Europe, coupled with extensive cyberattacks on Western commercial and military targets that the Alliance says bear the hallmarks of the Chinese state, have many NATO nations worried.

China is not doing anything wrong by investing in its own economic needs and logistics. It has bought sites that were already up for sale. It is operating in its own interests, as all countries do. But crackdowns on political dissent at home, together with an increasingly capable military have made many European states nervous about what comes next, if China’s interests are eventually crossed.

A nuclear-powered Type 094A Jin-class ballistic missile submarine of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is seen during a military display in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018 [File: China Stringer Network/Reuters]

This fear is amplified by the authoritarian state’s military-civilian fusion in many areas. In the South China Sea, there are large fleets of ships – allegedly Chinese fishermen attempting to make a living but which are, in fact, directly under the control of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). These fleets are often used to intimidate neighbours and stake de facto claims of Chinese ownership over the resource-rich waters of this strategically vital waterway. The latest incident was in March 2021 when more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels turned up in Whitsun Reef, an area of the South China Sea that both China and the Philippines claim.

How will NATO deal with all of this? How will it project power in any meaningful way that will resolve any potential Chinese transgressions? This is the challenge NATO now sees for itself as it enters this new and uncertain phase, during which there are many who think the Alliance has either outlived its usefulness or needs refocusing and that better institutions and alliances already exist to help US interests in the Indo-Pacific region.

As part of the United States’ pivot east to confront a rising China, it has increasingly invested in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as the Quad. Established in 2007, it is made up of the US and regional allies – Japan, India and Australia. Initially a paper organisation, over the past few years it has become an alliance of growing cohesion and potency, as the navies of all four countries train extensively and seek to become more integrated.

Aircraft carriers and warships participate in the second phase of a joint naval exercise between India, the US, Japan and Australia on November 17, 2020. The four countries form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad [File: Indian Navy via AP]

The basic fact is, if the US wants to contain China, it is going to need to co-opt Asia-Pacific powers into helping it do just that, in much the way the Soviet Union was contained. The difference being the Soviet Union had nowhere near the economic might China – fast on track to becoming the world’s biggest economy – has today.

Desperately seeking relevance

NATO has been struggling with its ever-evolving identity since the end of the Cold War. Born from a desire for collective defence and containment of the USSR, its mandate morphed to include nation-building, peace-keeping, military-civil relations and the never-ending fight against terrorism and organised crime, with varying degrees of success.

The original brief – that of European collective security – has been re-invigorated by Russia’s military modernisation. In 2014, the bloodless assimilation of Crimea into Russia, despite it being overwhelmingly ethnically Russian, sent shockwaves through NATO, especially among those who are Russia’s neighbours and who feel increasingly nervous that this “assimilation” might one day soon be used on them.

This has given the Alliance some of its traditional focus back as collective security within Europe shifts east from Germany and the old East-West partitions to the new fault lines dividing the increasingly worried Baltic States and Poland from a resurgent Russia.

Throughout its history, NATO has always been a fractious Alliance. The attempts to consider the national wants and needs of all its member states at times seem an impossible task. Sometimes the desire by a member state for military independence and the leeway to act in its own interests wins the day.

Key ally and nuclear state France left in 1966, only to return, under certain conditions, decades later in 2009.

Turkey, a vital member of the Alliance, has recently involved itself in conflicts on its doorstep in Syria and as far away as Libya. In these messy civil wars, often fought by proxies, NATO members have at times found themselves on opposing sides – the complicated network of temporary alliances shifting with remarkable speed.

It is in this climate that NATO now has to operate – not faced, as during the Cold War, with one clearly defined adversary, but fighting a patchwork of local conflicts while maintaining an ever-growing alliance between countries all with their own strategic considerations. It is little wonder that NATO is still struggling to define itself.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Man Who Burnt Family Alive Arrested

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A 45-year-old man in Rubanda district who allegedly locked his family in the house and set it ablaze has been arrested.

The suspect, Vian Armstrong over the weekend killed his wife and three children when the locked them in their house and torched it.

The incident happened in Habutobere Village, in in Muko sub county on Saturday night at around 10.30pm.

Police identified the deceased as Lovinah Muheki, 43, Edwin Tumworobere, 17, Westlife Akampumuriza, 15, and Mariakura Ekinamushabire, 5.

Locals told police that the couple had had long standing wrangles which prompted the man to marry a second wife.

On Saturday evening, the suspect was seen at a fuel station buying petrol. When he reached home, he locked the family inside the house and set it ablaze.

He also went to his immediate neighbor and hammered the doors shut to prevent them from coming to rescue his family.

Elly Maate the Kigezi regional Police spokesman says Armstrong he was arrested on Monday morning after he called a bodaboda cyclist to help him escape to another area.

The bodaboda cyclist informed the Police, who sent in a detective disguised as a bodaboda rider to the agreed pick up point, where the suspect was arrested.

“As security we applauded the bodaboda cyclist for working together with Police to have Armstrong arrested. We have him at Rubanda central police station as investigations carry on,” Maate said

The post Man Who Burnt Family Alive Arrested first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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