Hundreds of political prisoners have been freed from Myanmar’s Insein prison, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s party spokesman and a famous comedian, according to local media.
The prisoners walked free after state television announced an amnesty in conjunction with the Thadingyut festival for more than 5,600 people on Monday night.
The announcement came shortly after a televised address by Min Aung Hlaing, the army chief who seized power in a coup in February plunging the country into political turmoil and prompted many people to rush to the jail in Yangon in the hope that their loved ones would be among those released.
Factory worker Kyi Kyi was one of the dozens of people waiting outside the prison early on Tuesday, hoping to see her husband, who was arrested in February.
“I also came here yesterday,” she told the AFP news agency. “He was not released. Hopefully, he will be today.”
Nwet Nwet San, said he was hoping his son, a soldier who had run away from the army, would be freed.
“He’s been in prison for eight months,” he said.
“I heard mostly protesters will be released. I also heard other criminals will be released as well. That’s why I’m waiting.”
The amnesty followed an announcement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that Min Aung Hlaing would not be invited to their summit later this month because the military had made “insufficient progress” in complying with a five-point consensus that was agreed jointly in April.
Under the plan, the military was supposed to end violence against those opposed to its coup and allow a special ASEAN envoy to visit the country and meet all parties. Myanmar has been a member of ASEAN since 1997.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a rights group that has been tracking the military’s response to the protests that broke out as a result of the coup, says more than 9,000 people have been jailed and more than 1,000 killed.
It was sceptical about the prisoner release which it described as a “form of distraction”. The military held previous amnesties in April and June.
“The junta will continue to refuse being transparent about the individual persons released, and who remains detained,” the group said in a statement.
These endless cycles of dissident incarceration, release, and back, point to a well-established (and exhausting) pattern of governing by #Tatmadaw. So many of #Myanmar’s heavy, red-painted jailgates have made the frontpage since 1950s |
Here in The Guardian, 17 Jan 1960, p. 1 pic.twitter.com/xYx5rpODtw
— Renaud Egreteau (@R_Egreteau) October 19, 2021
Welcome back, my comrades. Our struggles continue.
— Thinzar Shunlei Yi (@thinzashunleiyi) October 19, 2021
Monywa Aung Shin, a spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party was among those released.
“They came to me today and said they will take me home, that’s all,” he told the Democratic Voice of Burma late on Monday on his way home from prison.
Monywa Aung Shin was arrested on February 1 and had been in prison for eight months.
‘Not a change of heart’
More political prisoners including parliamentarians and journalists were freed on Monday in other towns including Mandalay, Lashio, Meiktila and Myeik.
But 11 out of 38 people released from Meiktila prison in central Myanmar were arrested again according to DVB.
Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, stressed that many people were detained simply for exercising their legitimate rights. He said some had been tortured and sexually assaulted, while others had contracted COVID-19 and died.
“Their release is clearly not because the junta has had a change of heart,” he said in a statement, saying the move instead reflected the pressure being brought to bear on the generals.
“The junta seeks three things from the international community: money, weapons and legitimacy. Sustained pressure on all three fronts is the best way the international community can support the people of Myanmar to protect their human rights and save their country. The junta’s actions demonstrate that, despite their statements to the contrary, they are not impervious to pressure.”
Aung San Suu Kyi and key civilian leaders have been in detention since the February 1 coup, She is on trial in a closed court where she faces a raft of charges that could put her behind bars for years if she is found guilty.
The military has claimed without evidence that the November elections, in which the NLD won a landslide victory, were fraudulent.
The generals’ power grab brought to an end a slow transition to democracy that had been taking place for about 10 years.
Biden and Putin to hold video call on Tuesday, will discuss Ukraine
U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a video call on Tuesday to deal with military tensions over Ukraine other topics.
Biden wants to discuss U.S. concerns about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border, a U.S. source said on Saturday, as well as strategic stability, cyber and regional issues.
“We’re aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden told reporters on Friday as he departed for a weekend trip to Camp David. “I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” he said.
The two will also talk about bilateral ties and the implementation of agreements reached at their Geneva summit in June, the Kremlin said on Saturday.
“The conversation will indeed take place on Tuesday,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. “Bilateral relations, of course Ukraine and the realisation of the agreements reached in Geneva are the main (items) on the agenda,” he said.
More than 94,000 Russian troops are massed near Ukraine’s borders. Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/large-scale-russian-offensive-possible-january-ukraine-says-2021-12-03 that Moscow may be planning a large-scale military offensive for the end of January, citing intelligence reports.
Biden will reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the U.S. source said. The exact timing of the call was not disclosed. The White House declined to comment.
The U.S. president on Friday said he and his advisers are preparing a comprehensive set of initiatives aimed at deterring Putin from an invasion. He did not give further details, but the Biden administration has discussed partnering with European allies to impose more sanctions on Russia.
Moscow accuses Kyiv of pursuing its own military build-up. It has dismissed as inflammatory suggestions that it is preparing for an attack on its southern neighbor and has defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it sees fit.
U.S. officials say they do not know yet what Putin’s intentions are, adding while intelligence points to preparations for a possible invasion of Ukraine, it is unclear whether a final decision to do so has been made.
U.S.-Russia relations have been deteriorating for years, notably with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and U.S. intelligence charges of meddling in the 2016 election won by now-former President Donald Trump.
But they have become more volatile in recent months.
The Biden administration has asked Moscow to crack down on ransomware and cyber crime attacks emanating from Russian soil, and in November charged https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-seizes-6-mln-ransom-payments-charge-ukrainian-over-cyberattack-cnn-2021-11-08 a Ukraine national and a Russian in one of the worst ransomware attacks against American targets.
Russia has repeatedly denied carrying out or tolerating cyber attacks.
The two leaders have had one face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January, sitting down for talks in Geneva last June. They last talked by phone on July 9. Biden relishes direct talks with world leaders, seeing them as a way to lower tensions.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russian Foreign Minister ” https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/blinken-urges-russias-lavrov-take-diplomatic-exit-ukraine-crisis-2021-12-02 Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm earlier this week that the United States and its European allies would impose “severe costs and consequences on Russia if it takes further aggressive action against Ukraine.”
(Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in WashingtonEditing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell)
Meet the recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship – The Signal
Dalhousie award created to encourage more women to enter male dominated field
Having more women at the decision-making table is important for Claire Belliveau.
“If we have male dominated rooms, we’re going to have male dominated issues, as easy as that,” said Belliveau.
Belliveau, along with Charlotte Bourke, are the first recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship at Dalhousie.
Belliveau is in her fourth year at Dalhousie, studying political science and law, justice and society. She has been involved in politics since she was 18, working for Environment Minister Tim Halman. Belliveau is the community outreach co-ordinator at Halman’s constituency office.
Being a young woman in politics has not always been easy for Belliveau. She recalls instances where people questioned her abilities due to her age and times when male peers would take credit for her ideas.
Despite these challenges, Belliveau has found support among other women in the field. One thing she found interesting was how women in politics support each other despite party alliance.
“It’s so nice to see how much these women want to see other women succeed, in a male dominated field,” she said.
Belliveau would like to pursue a career in government as an analyst, contributing to policy development in education and the environment.
Bourke is also a fourth-year political science student with an interest in environmental politics. Her main research interests are social and environmental policies and she is studying ways to create fairer climate adaptation plans.
Bourke is unsure about her plans after graduation, but she knows it will involve politics, social issues and the environment.
The scholarship serves to encourage, support and inspire young women in their political aspirations. It was established by Grace Evans and Sarah Dobson, co-authors of On Their Shoulders: The Women who Paved the Way in Nova Scotia Politics.
The book addresses the gender gap by showcasing the first and only 50 women at the time, to have served as MLAs in the province. The book highlights the importance of female representation in municipal politics and all proceeds go towards funding the new scholarship.
In 2021, women and gender-diverse people make up only 36 per cent of the legislative assembly in Nova Scotia.
Of 55 MLAs, 19 are women, one is gender-diverse and 35 are men.
“People often don’t want to enter a realm where they can’t see themselves reflected. I think it’s hard for young women to become interested in politics if they don’t see their peers there,” Evans said.
The scholarship will run for as long as there is funding. Every year, two students will be awarded $1,000 each.
“There’s not a lot of scholarships, to my knowledge, geared specifically towards poli sci students, let alone women in poli sci,” Bourke said.
Evans said they are looking to expand the scholarship beyond funding to create a network of people. She and Dobson have been working in politics for a few years and have made many connections they would like to share with the recipients.
Receiving the scholarship was rewarding for Bourke, who felt like all her hard work was being acknowledged.
“It’s kind of just like a relief and a push forward to be like, oh wow I am being recognized, this is really cool, people actually think that I’m good enough, or they actually want me here. It feels sort of welcoming,” she said.
Belliveau was honoured to receive a scholarship designed to encourage women, like herself, who want a career in politics.
“It was just really motivating, especially from Sarah and Grace, knowing how much they care about young women in politics, knowing how much they care about the history and seeing more young women join the field,” she said.
“They’re acknowledging how important it is to have those voices at the table.”
For both women, winning the scholarship has given them a boost of confidence.
Belliveau said it has pushed her to apply for other opportunities, something she hopes other young women in politics will be encouraged to do as well.
“Apply for every scholarship, apply for fellowships, apply for the jobs you don’t think you qualify for because … men are doing it and they get them all the time, so why shouldn’t you?” she said.
“So, take advantage of everything you can and just enjoy the ride, stand your ground and don’t be afraid to speak up.”
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Playing Politics With Democracy? – Forbes
On December 9 and 10, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy to “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today.” How do Americans see the threat to democracy in the US now? And do partisans see the health of our democracy differently?
In October, Grinnell College asked them this directly. Fifty-two percent said American democracy was under a very serious threat and 29% under a minor threat. Only 14% perceived no threat. Other polls with differently worded questions produce similar impressions of a democracy in need of serious rehabilitation. In a November poll, Monmouth University pollsters found that 8% thought the US system of government was basically sound and needed no improvement, 35% basically sound but needing some improvement, 26% not too sound and needing many improvements, and 30% not too sound and in need of significant changes. And a late October–early November poll of 18–29 year olds from Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) finds that 7% of them describe US democracy as healthy, 27% somewhat functioning, 39% as in trouble, and 13% as failed.
In 2018, 2019, and again in 2021, Public Agenda, as part of the Daniel Yankelovich Democracy Initiative, asked people identical questions about democracy’s health. In the May 2021 poll, 14% said American democracy was doing well, 50% facing serious challenges but not in crisis, and 36% in crisis. The results were similar to their 2018 and 2019 polls.
In all of these new polls, Democrats were more positive about democracy’s health than were Republicans. In the 2021 Public Agenda survey, Democrats were less likely to see a crisis than Republicans, 25% to 48%. However, in their 2018 and 2019 polls taken during the Trump years, far more Democrats than Republicans said the system was in crisis. In the October 2021 Grinnell poll, 71% of Republicans compared to 35% of Democrats saw the threat as major. In the Monmouth poll, partisans in both parties thought improvements were necessary, but twice as many Republicans as Democrats (38% to 15%) said the system was not sound at all and needed significant changes. In the Harvard IOP poll, 18–29 year old Democrats were more optimistic about democracy, too. There is a clear disconnect between Democratic elites in the media and academia who regularly opine about a US democracy’s decline and the views of rank-and-file Democrats.
This pattern is reversed when we look at questions about the events of January 6 and subsequent investigations as the new edition of the AEI Polling Report shows. Democrats profess much more concern than Republicans about what happened that day and are more eager to see the work of the January 6 congressional committee continue. In a mid-October online Morning Consult/Politico poll, 81% of Democrats compared to 18% of Republicans approved of the special congressional committee to investigate the events that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6. And in a mid-October Quinnipiac University poll, 40% wanted to hear more, but 56% said enough was already known about what led to the storming of the Capitol. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats wanted to hear more compared to 22% of Republicans and 38% of independents. Still, it is significant that nearly four in 10 (38%) Democrats said enough is known already, indicating some fatigue with the investigation.
There are some obvious reasons Democrats would feel better about our democracy than Republicans. They control both chambers of Congress, there’s a Democrat in the White House, and expressing confidence in American democracy is a way of showing support for the party and the president as the polls above suggest. And Democrats will continue to hammer away at anything to do with Donald Trump.
The polls suggest that concerns about democracy have not diminished people’s willingness to participate in the system — at least in terms of voting. Eighty percent in the Grinnell poll said they would definitely vote in the 2024 election for president and other offices and only 7% said they probably would not. What’s more, 91% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans in the survey said that it was very important for the United States to remain a democracy. Five percent nationally said it was fairly important, 4% just somewhat, and 3% not important. When you care deeply about something as Americans do about democracy, you worry at its erosion. But today, this concern has a deep partisan overlay.
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