Category Archives: Entertainment

Uber Chases GrabTaxi in Myanmar, Expanding in Southeast Asia

YANGON � Uber is launching its private ride-hailing service in the Myanmar commercial capital of Yangon on Thursday, aiming to tap into one of the world’s youngest and fastest-growing online markets.

The launch follows Singapore-based GrabTaxi’s debut by about two months.

Uber is one of the world’s largest on-demand transportation platforms. It is seeking an alliance with the government to smooth acceptance of the use of private vehicles for commercial transport.

A taxi ride in Myanmar usually involves negotiating prices, no use of meters and a lack of air conditioning or seat belts. Using a ride-hailing app is still a relatively new concept, though the practice has been gaining in popularity.

Local travel services start-up Oway and Hello Cabs, a rival service run by a construction and auto dealership tycoon, also provide ride-hailing services.

I definitely want to try Uber,” said Nyan Zay Htet, 26, a company worker who was haggling with a driver over a fare on a downtown street in Yangon. I welcome having international companies come in because it can be more convenient for us if we don’t have to bargain over prices and can just hop in and go.”

More than two-thirds of Southeast Asians are younger than 40 and the number going online to buy goods and services is soaring. A recent research report by Google and the Singaporean investment arm Temasek put the potential ride-sharing market in six larger regional markets at $13 billion by 2025, up from $2.5 billion in 2015.

With more than 50 million people, Myanmar is growing fast and its public transport networks are not keeping up. Taxis are plentiful in Yangon, with local media reporting authorities estimate there are more than 50,000 on the city’s jammed roads. The industry is something of a free-for-all, with non-licensed drivers turning their cars into taxis as they please. But the government has said it intends to crack down on that.

Incomes for most people are still low, so price competition may be key.

An online Uber fare estimator put the base fare in Yangon at 1,500 kyats (pronounced chuts) ($1.09) with a minimum charge of 1,800 kyats ($1.31).

Uber has faced trouble from regulators in various markets, including China, France, Spain and Mexico. But generally they target services transporting paying customers using private vehicles that are not registered for public transport, not ride-hailing that uses smartphone apps to call licensed taxis.

Source: Voice of America

Secretary Kelly’s Cruel Remarks Attack the Rights of Asylum-Seekers

Secretary Kelly has commented on the deportation of a young mother and child who sought asylum from horrific violence and human rights abuses in Honduras.

According to Senator Bob Casey, the mother and child fled Honduras to the United States after witnessing the murder of a cousin and being pursued by gangs. They were held in an immigration detention facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania before being deported without ever presenting their full case in front of an immigration judge.

Amnesty International USA recently launched a campaign urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release several other families with young children being detained at the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania.

Secretary Kelly’s heartless remarks are flat-out wrong and deeply offensive, said Naureen Shah, senior director of campaigns at Amnesty International USA. Central Americans fleeing violence and persecution have the right to seek asylum and have their cases heard in front of an immigration judge. It is inhumane to brush aside the horrific violence they face, and particularly cruel to disregard their claims based on bigoted notions of why people leave their home countries. Secretary Kelly has put the lives of a young mother and her child in jeopardy by sending them back to Honduras.

The Northern Triangle, which includes El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras is an area widely recognized for its extreme levels of violence and insecurity, which Amnesty has also documented extensively.

Source: Amnesty International USA

Myanmar, EU at Odds Over Rohingya Rights Mission

BRUSSELS � The European Union clashed on Tuesday with the visiting leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, by publicly supporting an international mission to look into alleged human rights abuses by the country’s security forces against Rohingya Muslims.

The EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini, speaking at a news conference with Suu Kyi, said an agreed resolution of the U.N. Human Rights Council would help clear up uncertainty about allegations of killings, torture and rape against Rohingyas.

On the basis of that resolution, the top United Nations human rights body will send an international fact-finding mission to Myanmar despite Suu Kyi’s reservations.

“The fact-finding mission is focusing on establishing the truth about the past,” Mogherini said, noting a rare area of disagreement between the 28-nation EU and Myanmar. “We believe that this can contribute to establishing the facts.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council adopted the resolution, which was brought by the European Union and supported by countries including the United States, without a vote in March. China and India distanced themselves from the U.N. resolution.

Asked about the move, Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, said: “We are disassociating ourselves from the resolution because we don’t think the resolution is in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground.”

Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar’s civilian government and also its foreign minister, said she would only accept recommendations from a separate advisory commission led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan. Any other input would “divide” communities, she added, without giving further details.

The violent persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and their efforts to flee the Southeast Asian country, often falling victim to predatory human-trafficking networks, has become an international concern, documented by Pulitzer Prize-winning reports.

A U.N. report issued last month, based on interviews with220 Rohingya among 75,000 who have fled to Bangladesh since October, said that Myanmar’s security forces have committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya in a campaign that “very likely” amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.

Activists have welcomed what they called a “landmark decision” by the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council, and have called on the Myanmar government to cooperate.

Suu Kyi assumed power in 2016 following a landslide election win after Myanmar’s former military leaders initiated a political transition. The country had been an international pariah for decades under the military junta.

Source: Voice of America

WHO, Medical Workers, Mark Progress in Southeast Asia Malaria Fight

BANGKOK � Concerted campaigns in the Greater Mekong Subregion [GMS] to radically reduce the impact of malaria has lifted hopes a vital target to eradicate malaria from the region may be within reach.

Deyer Gobinath, a malaria technical officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Thailand, said the outlook is positive for eliminating severe forms of malaria across the region within the next decade.

The goal is for most of the GMS countries by 2025 to try and eliminate falciparium malaria � the most severe form of malaria � the falciparium malariia – and then by 2030 basically all forms or all species of malaria, Gobinath said.

In 2015, WHO leaders said there were 14 million malaria cases across Southeast Asia, resulting in 26,000 deaths. Globally, in the same year, the WHO reported 438,000 lives lost, mostly in Africa and warned that 3.2 billion people � almost half the world’s population � face health risks from the disease.

Mortality rates decline; challenges remain

The campaigns in Southeast Asia cover Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, all reporting consistent declines in mortality rates, by as much as 49 percent since 2000.

Populations most vulnerable to the mosquito-borne disease are largely in remote border regions, isolated from infrastructure and immediate medical support.

The key areas of concern lie in regions between Thailand and Myanmar � also known as Burma � and in Cambodia among others.

But Saw Nay Htoo, director of the Burma Medical Association, said collaboration between medics and local communities has had a positive impact in reducing malaria’s impact.

In the ground level we set up the malaria [clinic] post which we have at least one malaria health worker, according to the population they have, to detect malaria, he said. And if there is malaria positive then the patient is given the malaria medicine. So we have been doing this for three years. It seems our program is going very well � there are less malaria cases in the border areas.

Combination of drugs

The fight against malaria is largely based on a combination of drugs known as Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy, or ACT, as the main line of drug treatment.

The World Health Organization’s Gobinath said Thailand’s medical infrastructure and funding support have all contributed to lowering the numbers of malaria cases.

For malaria in Thailand here’s been quite a remarkable decrease � a steady decrease, decline in the number of confirmed cases of malaria. In the past 10 years or so something like 30,000 cases in 2012; to 2015 it was 19,000 to 20,000 cases. So it’s been a gradual but persistent decline of confirmed malaria cases, he told VOA.

But he said for progress to be sustained it will require continued political will and commitment.

WHO officials said attention needs to focus on migrant worker populations moving across the region’s borders. Thai health authorities have taken steps to enable medical access to migrant populations at risk of malaria, largely in remote border areas.

The battle far from over

But challenges remain, said Maria Dorina Bustos, a WHO technical officer with responsibilities for monitoring drug resistant strains of malaria across 18 countries in the Asia Pacific.

Dorina Bustos said the region with drug resistant forms of malaria is spreading. The Thai-Cambodia or the Thai-Myanmar border, you need to think about the Thai-Laos border because the Southern Laos drug resistance is also about evident � is documented, it is also there. And what is actually more alarming is happening in the Cambodia side, she told VOA.

She said drug resistance becomes evident in the delay in clearance of the parasite from the patient. Dorina Bustos says the use of fake drugs and self-treatment also opens the way to drug resistance.

What we are seeing in the last five years is that it is really emerging in the most parts of the region � initially just in the Western border of Cambodia and now it has also spread to the east and almost the whole country, Dorina Bustos said.

She said there is a need for close monitoring of major population centers � especially in India and Africa � to ensure successful treatment and avoiding issues of the use of fake medicines.

A positive note has been ongoing investment and research in new drugs, including commitments by major pharmaceutical industries.

It’s really here in the Mekong where we really have a problem. Cambodia, the borders of Thailand, the borders of Thai/Laos and Cambodia/Vietnam � it’s very specific in the Mekong region, she said. For Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and even India, Bangladesh and Nepal the ACT [Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy] is all working perfectly well.

Source: Voice of America

Myanmar Authorities Nab Illegal Drugs, Cattle at New China Border Checkpoint in Shan State

Authorities in Myanmar’s northern Shan state have seized more than U.S. $1.5 million worth of illegal drugs, timber, and cattle at a new inspection station for transport vehicles that opened two months ago, an official who works at the checkpoint said Thursday.

They transferred the drugs, which were headed to China, from the checkpoint in Yepu to a police station in the town of Theinni, said Teat Tun Aung, deputy director of the inspection station.

Authorities also recently seized two trucks carrying illegal timber and cattle headed for China, he said.

Within two months of opening the checkpoint, authorities have confiscated illegally transported items, including 888 grams (two pounds) of heroin and 74 head of cattle, totaling 2.23 billion kyats (U.S. $1.62 million), he said.

We have seized illegal food that people shouldn’t eat, clothing, household goods, shoes, cattle, snakes, Padauk timber, and some chemicals to make medicine, Teat Tun Aung said.

We have transferred the timber, cows, and snakes to the state Forestry Department, he said.

Authorities will transfer other items, including clothing, food, and household goods brought from China with illegal documents, to the Customs Department.

Shan state and neighboring Kachin state are hotbeds of illegal drug and smuggling activities where ethnic rebel groups�some of which take part in the illegal activities�have engaged in periodic hostilities with Myanmar’s armed forces during the last few years.

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