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Myanmar Guerrillas Capture Govt Base Near Border With Thailand; Airstrikes Follow

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Ethnic Karen guerrillas said they captured a Myanmar army base on Tuesday near the border with Thailand, representing a morale-boosting action for those opposing the military’s takeover of the country’s civilian government in February.

Myanmar’s military staged airstrikes several hours later on villages in territory controlled by the Karen forces, according to a guerrilla spokesman, a senior Thai official and a relief worker.

The fighting took place three days after a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders to try to hammer out a plan to restore peace in Myanmar, where the military government has attempted to suppress widespread opposition to its rule through the use of lethal force. More then 700 protesters and bystanders have been killed by security forces, according to several detailed estimates. The junta’s figure is about one-third of that.

A spokesman for the Karen National Union, the minority’s main political group seeking greater autonomy from Myanmar’s central government, said its armed wing attacked the base at 5 a.m. and burned it down just after dawn.

Casualty figures were not yet known, the KNU’s head of foreign affairs, Padoh Saw Taw Nee, said in a text message. There was no immediate comment from Myanmar’s military government.

The KNU, which controls territory in eastern Myanmar near the Thai border, is a close ally of the resistance movement against the military coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Its armed wing is called the Karen National Liberation Army.

Video shot from the Thai side of the border showed flames rising from the government position on the banks of the Salween River amid the sound of heavy gunfire. The river marks the border with Thailand.

Padoh Man Man of the KNLA’s 5th Brigade, which launched the morning attack, said Myanmar’s military carried out airstrikes in the early afternoon, but he did not know how many casualties there were. He described the air raids as a “heinous war crime” and called for the international community to pressure the junta to stop them.

Sithichai Jindaluang, the governor of Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province, confirmed at a news conference that Karen guerrillas had overrun the Myanmar base and said a woman on Thai soil was wounded by a stray bullet. He said about 450 villagers have been evacuated from Mae Sam Lap for their own safety.

Sithichai also said a Myanmar military aircraft later bombed a Karen village.

Dave Eubank of the Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian aid group with extensive experience in the area, said he could confirm there had been airstrikes on Karen villages in Papun district. He said five bombs were dropped but caused no casualties. Myanmar’s army was also staging ground attacks in the area, Eubank said.

Fighting between the KNU’s armed wing and Myanmar’s military has been intense since February.

Myanmar jets have bombed and strafed Karen villages since March 27, and its army has deployed new battalions to the area, in possible preparation for a large-scale offensive.

Up to 25,000 villagers have fled their homes and are hiding in jungles and caves, according to Eubank.

In response, the KNLA has kept up guerrilla attacks on Myanmar patrols and bases. The KNU has also given shelter to activists against military rule who have fled the government’s crackdown on the resistance movement in the cities.

There is a similar situation in northern Myanmar, where the Kachin minority says it has captured several government outposts and has been the target of air attacks.

The Karen and the Kachin are two of the bigger minority groups that have been seeking greater autonomy for decades, during which there have been periods of armed conflict punctuated by cease-fires.

The city-based resistance movement against the ruling junta has wooed the ethnic guerrilla groups in hopes that they can form a federal army as a counterweight to the government’s armed forces. A parallel National Unity Government established by elected lawmakers prevented from taking their seats by the army has appointed representatives of several minority groups to ministerial posts.

On Tuesday, a flash mob of anti-military protesters surged through an area of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, for the second successive day to show fleeting but unyielding defiance of the ruling junta.

Such open protests have become less frequent since a brutal crackdown by the security forces began, but activity has picked up following Saturday’s meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, with junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing in attendance.

The meeting prompted some guarded optimism after it issued a statement reporting a “five-point consensus” on Myanmar’s crisis. It called for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all concerned parties, mediation of the dialogue process by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels, and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties.

However, a statement from the junta about the meeting published in Tuesday’s state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper made no mention of the consensus statement. It emphasized that Myanmar would “give careful consideration to constructive suggestions made by ASEAN Leaders when the situation returns to stability in the country since priorities at the moment were to maintain law and order and to restore community peace and tranquility.”

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Coronavirus News LIVE Updates: Experts Examine Effectiveness of Plasma Treatment, Advisory Likely Next Week

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Coronavirus News LIVE Updates: Kejriwal said the citizens of Delhi had played a big role in reducing the number of fresh cases by strictly following the lockdown rules.

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Delhi police interrogates Youth Congress president in court ordered probe

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The Delhi police today questioned Youth Congress president Srinivas B V over the allegations of illegal procurement and distribution of Covid-19 drugs in an ongoing investigation ordered by the Delhi High Court. The police have already questioned some AAP and BJP leaders in the case, and will question more politicians from various parties.

A team of the Delhi Police Crime Branch today reached the headquarters of the Indian Youth Congress to interrogate President Srinivas B V about the source of COVID-19 relief material his organisation is using to help the people. The police were acting on the directions of the Delhi High Court, who had asked it to conduct an enquiry into the involvement of politicians in the alleged illegal distribution of COVID-19 medicines.

While the Congress party raised an outrage over the questioning, and ‘neutral’ journalists questioned the appropriateness of investigating someone for distributing Covid-19 aid, it may be noted that BJP leaders have also been questioned and are being questioned in the same case. On May 11, Delhi BJP leader Harish Khuranna had informed that he was also questioned by Delhi Police, and he had given a statement.

“I gave them my statement and said I have never hoarded, purchased or sold any medicines. I went through official channels to help people get access to medicines. They showed me a copy of the High Court order based on which the enquiry is taking place,” Khurana said.

On the same day, the Delhi Police Crime Branch had questioned AAP MLA Dilip Pandey too in connection with alleged “illegal distribution of Covid medicines, etc”.

Delhi HC directs Police to enquire into the charge of “medical-mafia-political nexus” in the distribution of COVID-19 medicines

The inquiry by the Delhi Police is being conducted in accordance with a Delhi High Court order, which asked them to carry out an investigation into the involvement of politicians in the alleged illegal distribution of COVID-19 medicines. The Delhi Police is likely to summon BJP MP Gautam Gambhir, who is also at the forefront of helping people during the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

A petition was filed by Dr Deepak Singh, Chairman of Hruduya Foundation, in the Delhi High Court, seeking a CBI probe into an alleged “medical mafia-politician nexus” and illegal distribution of COVID medicines by politicians. The petitioner had mentioned Gambir, Srinivas, as well as BJP leaders Sujay Vikhe, Gautam Gambhir and Shirish Chaudhari, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Congress MLA Mukesh Sharma, NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Rohit Pawar, citing the instances of Remdesivir distributed by them. The petition had also asked for the detention of such persons for allegedly indulging in black-marketing of Covid-19 medicines as per the National Security Act, 1980, and to disqualify the MLAs and MPs.

The court on May 4 had turned down the plea of filing FIR and CBI probe, but had asked the Delhi Police to examine the issue. The Court had asked the police to look into the instances of politicians allegedly directly procuring Remdesivir and distributing them to Covid-19 patients, and to file FIR if any irregularities were found. The court asked the state to file a status report within a week and listed the case for hearing on May 17.

“In case alleged incidents are found to have taken place in Delhi, Delhi Police should take appropriate steps by registration of FIR,” said the division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli in an order.

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Surge Tests, Vaccine Measures as B1.617.2 Covid-19 Variant Spreads Rapidly in Parts of UK

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The case numbers related to the B1.617.2 variant of Covid-19, first identified in India, have more than doubled within a week in the UK, resulting in further surge testing and enhanced vaccine measures to be deployed in parts of the country where the strain is beginning to spread increasingly rapidly. Public Health England (PHE) said on Thursday that its latest analysis shows the number of cases of the highly transmissible variant first detected in Maharashtra has risen from 520 last week to 1,313 cases this week.

Most cases are in the northwest of England, with some in London, and additional measures are being put in place to “rapidly break chains of transmission”. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the health authorities are monitoring the situation very carefully and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary, indicating that the roadmap to lifting all lockdown measures from June 21 may have to be reassessed.

This data demonstrates why our swift and decisive measures are in place. Everyone has a part to play in controlling this variant, from participating in surge testing, to following the rules, to getting the jab, said Hancock. We are committed to working with local areas and deploying our world-leading genomic sequencing to get this variant under control. We are supporting areas where the cases of this variant are rising, he said.

The minister said it is imperative that people who live in one of the 15 areas currently covered by surge testing processes get a free PCR test and everyone who’s eligible needs to come forward and get their vaccine. PHE said that while there is no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on the severity of disease or that it evades vaccines, the “speed of growth is concerning”.

UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the authorities are looking at how to best utilise the vaccine roll-out to protect the most vulnerable in the context of the current epidemiology, including the possibility of bringing forward the second doses for the most vulnerable in some of the most affected areas. Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, one of the hotspots of the variant, has also called for a speeding up in the age eligibility criteria for vaccines in the affected areas. The National Health Service (NHS) is now offering a jab to all over the age of 38.

Cases of this variant are rising in the community and we are continuously monitoring its spread and severity to ensure we take rapid public health action, said Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE. Testing and isolating when required not only limits spread, it helps us to better understand how the variant behaves in the community which is vital to taking effective and proportionate action moving forward “The way to limit the spread of all variants is the same. Keep your distance, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when inside, keep buildings well ventilated and meet people from other households outside, she said.

The variant was confirmed as a “Variant of Concern” by PHE on May 7 after a rise in cases and evidence of spread in some areas. Since then across the northwest of England, significant work is underway with local councils and partners. In Bolton, mobile testing units have been deployed and door to door PCR testing has been offered to 22,000 residents. A vaccine bus has been established in the heart of the community to increase vaccine uptake as part of a wider drive.

PCR testing, whole genome sequencing and enhanced contact tracing are being used throughout London to target the many small dispersed clusters. All positive tests in London with a high enough viral load are also being prioritised for genomic sequencing to check for variants, and surge testing can begin immediately if it is needed. Taking this community-led approach has already proved effective in reducing transmission of variants in London to date, PHE said.

To help identify variant cases, surge testing is being deployed in 15 areas across England to suppress transmission, with more than 800,000 additional PCR test kits distributed. According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), over 4,400 cases and over 14,000 close contacts have been traced and instructed to self-isolate.

Over 200 existing test sites and 130 schools have distributed test kits, with Mobile Testing Units deployed to provide PCR testing for people without symptoms. The public is also being urged to continue to take up the offer of two free rapid tests a week, to help identify asymptomatic cases. Anyone who does test positive in this way should take a follow-up PCR test, which can be sent for genome sequencing to help catch new variant cases.

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