Moreh, Manipur, India – Seven Myanmar nationals, including three journalists from a Yangon-based media house, are set to travel to New Delhi to approach the India office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) after a court in the northeastern state of Manipur ordered safe passage for them on Monday.
The seven Myanmar nationals had been “hiding” in Moreh, a border town in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district, for weeks before they arrived in the state capital Imphal on April 21 following court-ordered interim protection.
The seven are among hundreds of Myanmar nationals, including policemen, military personnel and legislators, who are seeking shelter in the Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram after they fled to escape a brutal crackdown following a military coup on February 1 this year.
Many of those who fled are members of the anti-coup Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), which has been protesting to demand the reinstatement of the civilian government in Myanmar.
More than 750 protesters have been killed in the crackdown, according to reports, even as ethnic armed groups continue to confront the military government.
In their order on Monday, the judges at the Manipur High Court made a distinction between migrants and refugees seeking asylum.
“They did not enter our country with the clear-cut and deliberate intention of breaking and violating our domestic laws. They fled the country of their origin under imminent threat to their lives and liberty,” the judges said.
Citing media coverage from Myanmar, the judges said there is “no doubt that these Myanmarese persons, given their links with the banned Mizzima Media Organization, face an imminent threat to their lives and liberty if they return”.
“This court finds it just and proper to extend protection under Article 21 of the Constitution to these seven Myanmarese persons and grant them safe passage to New Delhi to enable them to avail suitable protection from the UNHCR,” they said, asking the governments in New Delhi and Manipur to facilitate their travel.
Senior human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar had filed the petition on behalf of the seven Myanmar nationals, claiming they could be deported back to Myanmar by the Assam Rifles, the paramilitary force that guards the India-Myanmar border.
The seven include Sit Thau Aung, a 43-year-old video journalist, Chin San Lun, a web designer, Pau Khan Thawn, a webmaster, his wife and three children.
Haksar cited a March 10 letter issued by India’s home ministry to the states bordering Myanmar and the Assam Rifles, directing them to check the influx of “illegal immigrants” from Myanmar.
The letter said India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 or its 1967 protocol and hence not obliged to give the Myanmar nationals shelter.
Haksar on Monday told Al Jazeera they would soon catch a flight to New Delhi.
“They wanted to go to Delhi and hopefully now they will get the UNHCR certificate,” she said, adding that the agency insists on the presence of the applicants in the city to process their asylum claims.
Thawn and his wife took refuge in India in 2007 during the Saffron Revolution in Myanmar, Haksar’s petition and the court order notes. They went back after the situation normalised in Myanmar.
The Saffron Revolution was a series of mass protests in 2007, sparked by a hike in fuel prices but which soon took the shape of a movement against the military rulers. Buddhist monks were at the forefront of the protests, hence the name saffron in reference to their robes.
In March this year, as the situation in Myanmar deteriorated and the military started cracking down on dissident journalists, Thawn, along with his family and colleagues, packed their bags to escape.
After two days of bus journeys and a short trek through the hills, the seven crossed the border and arrived in Moreh on March 22.
“There was a media shutdown. The military had started arresting media people,” Aung told Al Jazeera, detailing the circumstances of his escape. He claimed to be on the military’s list of wanted journalists and said there was a warrant pending against him.
Aung and his colleagues had covered the aftermath of the coup in February. “We were livestreaming it,” said Aung.
On March 8, the military revoked Mizzima’s publishing and broadcasting licence.
“They raided our head office of broadcasting in Yangon on March 9 and took away whatever they found,” Soe Myint, founder of Mizzima, said in an email to Al Jazeera from an undisclosed location.
Myint said he was also active in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising against the military government, which was brutally crushed by them. In 1990, he was one of the two involved in hijacking a Thai Airways plane that was diverted to the Indian city of Kolkata.
The duo had demanded that police allow them to address a news conference to tell the world what was happening in Burma (Myanmar’s former name).
Myint later founded the Mizzima news organisation in 1998 in New Delhi where he lived as a refugee.
Myint said three Mizzima journalists were arrested in February and March, while three other former staffers, including co-founder and Myint’s wife Thin Thin Aung, were picked up on April 8.
Meanwhile, Moreh, the small border town, continues to play host to more than 1,000 Myanmar nationals, mostly from the Sagaing Division which saw fierce clashes between the protesters and the military.
Tamu, the township across from Moreh, has fallen quiet over the last few days, according to Jangman Haokip, president of the Hill Tribal Council, a community organisation representing a section of the local tribal communities who live in this part of Manipur.
“But people are still apprehensive. They don’t want to go back,” he said. “Centre and state should do something for the sake of these people.”
Locals complain that the state government has not offered any support and has left it to the community organisations to take care of the Myanmar nationals.
In neighbouring Mizoram, the number of Myanmar nationals seeking shelter has grown to more than 3,000, according to local community organisations.
The Manipur High Court order has raised the hopes of many of these Myanmar nationals that they can seek refuge in India.
Bernard L Chhangte, president of United for Democratic Myanmar NGO, an umbrella group of more than 20 local civil society groups involved in helping the Myanmar nationals in Mizoram, said they are studying the court’s order and considering further action.
“It may also be noted that though India has no clear refugee protection policy or framework, it does grant asylum to a large number of refugees from nearby countries. India usually respects the UNHCR’s recognition of the status of such asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan and Myanmar,” the Manipur High Court order notes.
Haksar hoped India would give asylum to “genuine refugees”.
“The significance of this order is that the high court made a distinction between refugee and migrant. That is a very important distinction. Anyone who is a refugee should be able to take advantage of the order,” she said.
India accounted for nearly half of the COVID-19 cases reported worldwide last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, as the country’s coronavirus deaths rise by a record 3,780 during the last 24 hours.
The WHO said in its weekly epidemiological report on Wednesday that India accounted for 46 percent of global cases and 25 percent of global deaths reported in the past week.
Daily infections in the country rose by 382,315 on Wednesday, health ministry data showed, the 14th straight day of more than 300,000 cases.
India’s second deadly surge of COVID-19 has seen hospitals run out of beds and oxygen and left morgues and crematoriums overflowing. Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave of the virus. Religious festivals and political rallies have attracted tens of thousands of people in super spreader events.
“We need a government. Desperately. And we don’t have one. We are running out of air. We are dying…” wrote Indian author Arundhati Roy in an opinion piece published on Tuesday calling for Modi to step down.
“This is a crisis of your making. You cannot solve it. You can only make it worse… So please go. It is the most responsible thing for you to do. You have forfeited the moral right to be our prime minister.”
Two “oxygen express” trains reached the capital Delhi on Wednesday carrying desperately needed liquid oxygen, Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal said on Twitter. More than 25 trains have so far delivered oxygen to different parts of India.
India’s government says there are enough oxygen supplies but distribution has been hindered by transport problems.
A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals seeking oxygen and invoking India’s constitutional right to protection of life.
India’s surge in infections has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations due to supply and delivery problems.
At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, have reported a scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some inoculation centres.
India’s opposition has called for a nationwide lockdown, but the government is reluctant to impose a shutdown for fear of the economic fallout, although several states have imposed social curbs.
India’s central bank asked banks on Wednesday to let certain borrowers have more time to repay loans as the surge in infections impacts a nascent economic revival.
In the remote state of Mizoram which borders Myanmar, beds are in such short supply in Zoram Medical College, the state’s biggest COVID hospital, that all non-COVID patients have been asked to leave, said government official Dr ZR Thiamsanga.
Only three out of 14 ventilators are still available.
“In my opinion, a complete lockdown is required to control the situation,” he told Reuters news agency from the state capital Aizawl.
Medical experts say the actual numbers of dead and infected in India could be five to 10 times the official tallies. The country added 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the first 10 million.
Daily testing in India has fallen sharply to 1.5 million, state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Wednesday. It hit a peak of 1.95 million on Saturday.
Public health experts believe India will not reach herd immunity any time soon but say hospitalisations and deaths will reduce significantly in six to nine months, according to a report in The Economic Times.
Herd immunity is when a high enough proportion of the population is vaccinated or has been infected and developed antibodies so that one infected person could theoretically only infect less than one person, halting the spread of the virus.
Cricket officials suspended the hugely popular, money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) on Tuesday as players tested positive.
India’s cricket board will help to move Australia’s entire IPL cohort to the Maldives or Sri Lanka in the coming days, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley said on Wednesday.
Australia has banned travellers from India who have been in the country within the prior 14 days but Hockley said the players would wait outside India for approval to head home.
Eight Asiatic lions at an Indian zoo in the southern city of Hyderabad have contracted the coronavirus, the government said on Tuesday, adding that there was no evidence that animals could transmit the disease to humans.
Following Nana Agradaa‘s (now Evangelist Patricia Oduro Koranteng) repentance, one person who has been under close watch is her protege and accomplice in the ‘Sika Gari’ scam, Big Akwes.
Big Akwes is a popular Kumawood comic actor. He is one of the few persons who have been with Nana Agradaa since she started her defrauding business on TV.
The comic actor has been a loud and constant publicist of Nana Agradaa on her TV stations where he speaks about the spiritual skills of Agradaa and why people need to bring in their money for it to be doubled.
Big Akwes on several occasions during his times with the converted fetish priestess reveals since he started working with her for the last three years, she has gifted him cars each year.
The British dependency imports most of its electricity from France, which is angry about fishing rights granted by Jersey.
France’s maritime minister suggested that her government could cut off electricity supplies to the British island of Jersey, amid a deepening row between France and the U.K. over post-Brexit fishing rights.
Annick Girardin said she was “revolted” when she found out that Jersey had granted 41 fishing licenses that included conditions and specific criteria that were “decided unilaterally and without explanation.” The island just off the northwest coast of Brittany is a self-governing dependency of the British crown that imports about 95% of its electricity from France through undersea cables.
“We’re ready to resort to retaliatory measures” that are in the Brexit accord, Girardin told lawmakers in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
“Concerning Jersey, I’ll remind you of the transport of electricity via submarine cables,” she added. “I would regret it if we have to do it, but we’ll do it if we have to.”
Girardin said that she flagged the non-compliance with the Brexit deal to the European Commission. She also posted a video clip of the comments to lawmakers on her Twitter account.
Jersey’s external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said the island had issued the licenses in accordance with the U.K.’s trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union. This means French boats must demonstrate a track record of having fished in the area, he said.
“If French fishermen or the authorities have further evidence they would like to submit, we will update the licenses to reflect that evidence,” Gorst said in a statement on the Jersey government’s website. “We are entering a new era, and it takes time for all to adjust.”
U.K. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News that Britain and the EU should “continue to work together” to “iron out” any problems. “We’ve got to look at this urgently,” and the “best way” to fix this is to work together, he said Wednesday.
Last week, Clement Beaune, France’s junior minister for European Affairs, threatened to block regulations that would allow U.K. financial firms to do business in the EU if Britain doesn’t respect its commitments on fishing.
Access to bountiful fishing areas located between 6 and 12 nautical miles (11 and 22 kilometers) off the British coast is difficult, and the U.K. hasn’t delivered all the licenses it was meant to, the head of the National Fishing Committee, Jean-Luc Hall, told Bloomberg last week. He added that French fishermen don’t venture into U.K. waters without a license because of the risks of fines.
British and EU negotiators are locked in discussions over the 2021 catch quota for shared fishing stocks. Hall said that some of them “think it’s possible that delays in giving out licenses is a lever in the negotiations on quotas.”
Paul Adom Otchere has subjected himself to public ridicule following a statement he made whilst addressing the #Fixthecountry campaign that has garnered massive attention.
The Good Evening Ghana host in an attempt to explain the current situation charged the youth (apparently the voice leading the advocacy) to go and read on Covid-economics to get a clearer picture of the economy.
READ ALSO: NPP’s Frank Annor Dompreh describes the #FixTheCountry campaign as ‘nonsense’
According to the seasoned journalist, this new branch of economics studies the result of the covid-19 effect on the economy of the country.
Nana Aba Anamoah on social media has questioned Adom Otchere on the Covid economics book he was referring to in his submission in the video above.
She also asked him to share because she’s ignorant of Covid economics and in return will share with him a book she’s writing; ‘how journalists must keep the government on their toes and not in their bed’.
READ ALSO: ‘Open your books and learn’ – Angry Paul Adom Otchere blasts Nana Aba Anamoah
Some netizens have also mocked the broadcaster over his Covid Economics comments. Read some reactions below;
@Obaa_Trend Mr Paul Adom Otchere, pls I can’t find the Covid Economics in my economics book ooo, pls help me
@canttellnow So Paul Adom Otchere says, in countering #fixthecountrynow, that a populace with about 60% literacy rate to go read economics? What’s bawumia’s job then, so we gave them power just to learn how to do his job for him? He don’t make things free and request repayment.
Paul who is a seasoned journalist claims Nana Addo and the NPP government have managed to grow the economy even in these difficult Covid times; something he claims even developed countries have not even been able to do so ignorant people like Nana Aba should be grateful and stop complaining.
Watching excerpt of his show below
After the show, Paul further took to his Twitter handle to again school Nana Aba Anamoah for being ignorant on Covid Economics. Paul in series of tweets wrote:
‘@thenanaaba my dear, how are you, please I am often bold, but as I just said on TV this evening, I think we should put this #FixIt discussion in a proper economic context. COVID-19 turned our economy upside down.
Until February 2020, @NAkufoAddo and Ken Ofori-Atta had grown this economy better than they inherited even with a significant social intervention in education whilst discharging significant legacy debts.
I think we should situate the discussion well. If after all is said and done we still think they should fix it, then by all means let’s tell them so. Good night and let’s meet soon.
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It all started when Paul Adom Otchere joined the trending hashtag #FixTheCountry, a call on the government of Ghana to provide the basic necessities for Ghanaians.
SEE ALSO: Fix Your Attitude first-Afia Schwar slams campaigners of #Fix the country
However, he tried to shift the blame on the difficulties in the country from the current government to former president John Mahama, Covid-19, and other stakeholders.
That is something Nana Aba Anamoah found distasteful and called out Paul Adom Otchere to be bold and for once, speak truth to his party, the NPP led by Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo Addo.