VIF Neighbourhood News Digest: August 17, 2021
Taliban Delegation In Beijing Ahead Of Doha Talks: Report: Tolo News

A Taliban delegation is visiting Beijing to hold talks with Chinese officials as part of a peace process ahead of their seventh round of talks with the US in Qatar, a former Taliban spokesman said as quoted by Arab News. In April this year, US, China and Russia pressed the Taliban to hold talks with Afghan politicians and civilians, as an important step to end the 17-year conflict. Abdul Hai Mutmayen, who has served as Taliban chief spokesman in Kandahar, told Arab News that the Taliban political office head, Abdul Ghani Baradar was leading the delegation in talks with Chinese officials.

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UN Secretary General to Taliban: The World is Watching: Tolo News

UN Secretary General António Guterres in a speech to the Security Council on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan said that the international community expects the Taliban to respect international humanitarian law and the fundamental rights of the Afghans, particularly Afghan women and girls. He said there have been "chilling reports" of "severe restrictions on human rights" and accounts of "mounting human rights violations" against women and girls.

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Sending troops to Afghanistan to fight for others was a mistake: Biden: The Khaama Press

US President Joe Biden in his White House public speech on Afghanistan said that sending and doubling troops in Afghanistan, staying for long in the country and fighting for the civil war of a foreign country was a mistake and he is not repeating that mistake and is bringing the war to an end. Joe Biden said that he will not let his men and women in service fight for others anymore and does not regret the decision of full withdrawal of troops.

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At Least 10 People Killed in Chaos at Kabul Airport: Tolo News

At least 10 people were killed in the chaos at Kabul airport after crowds of thousands flocked to the area on Sunday afternoon and into Monday with the hope of leaving the country.
People entered the airport from all sides despite the presence of US forces as well as troops from other nations attempting to secure the evacuations of their respective citizens and Afghan local staff.

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As TV broadcast diminished, CPJ asks for Afghan journalists’ protection: The Khaama Press

As the Taliban are now grappling control over nearly 100% soil of Afghanistan, the Committee to Protect Journalists CPJ is concerned about the lives of Afghan male and female journalists and is asking the United States to protect their lives.

The committee has asked the US that has to facilitate safe crossing and urgent visas for Afghan journalists. On the very first day, the Taliban entered Kabul, Afghanistan National Radio and Television RTA stopped its live broadcasting and the staff is all let go home, the security guards of Shamshad TV and TOLO TV were disarmed and the latter has no live broadcast and programs

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Extremists reign in Bangladeshi cyberspace- Dhaka Tribune

“Facebook is immensely popular among Bangladeshis and thus extremists still find this social media platform a suitable territory to operate, although Facebook has a policy to take down all extreme contents from its platform.”
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Dhaka turns down Washington’s request to temporarily shelter people from Afghanistan- The Independent

“Bangladesh has rejected a request from the United States to give temporary shelter to some people from Afghanistan, saying Bangladesh is already in a big problem by giving shelter to over 1.1 million Rohingyas. “Yes, we’ve received a request from the US. We thanked them but rejected the request,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told UNB over phone.”
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Chinese firm to invest $6m in Dhaka EPZ- Daily Star

“Chinese company Kaixi Fashion Bangladesh Co Ltd plans to invest $6 million to establish a lingerie manufacturing factory in the Dhaka Export Processing Zone.”
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Taliban victory may encourage militants in Bangladesh: DMP chief- The Independent

“Voicing concern over the Afghan situation DMP Commissioner Md Shafiqul Islam on Monday said it may encourage the militants in Bangladesh. “The militants in Bangladesh are encouraged in view of the international current situation and they are organising the gang following the context of it,” the DMP chief told reporters. He said the Taliban victory will create a new wave in the sub-continent and the Jihadists will be happy over it.”
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Bangladesh to welcome new Afghan govt if it’s of people: FM- The Independent

“Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Monday said Bangladesh will welcome the new government in Afghanistan if it is supported by its people. The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh believes in friendship to all countries, and Bangladesh will extend support if any government seeks support from Bangladesh.”
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Bangladesh carefully observing the fast evolving situation in Afghanistan- Daily Sun

“In a statement issued on Monday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on current situation of Afghanistan, the government said: “Bangladesh is carefully observing the fast evolving situation in Afghanistan, which, we believe, may have an impact on the region and beyond.” It said Bangladesh and Afghanistan share historical and cultural linkages. It is a fellow member of SAARC and an integral part of South Asia.”
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AFD to provide Bangladesh $50m loan for energy sector- Daily Observer

“A loan agreement was signed under which the French Development Agency (AFD), France would provide 50 million soft loans to Bangladesh for the ‘Energy efficiency, renewable energy, and Women Entrepreneurship’ linked projects.”
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All set for vaccine co-production- Bangladesh Post

“Bangladesh is all set to coproduce Covid-19 vaccine in Dhaka with China’s Sinopharm after the signing of a historic deal on Monday.”
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L&T to take PI to Bhutan Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre- Kuensel

“A contract company in Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project I (PHPA I), Larson & Toubro (L&T), will now appeal to the Bhutan Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre (BADRC) to resolve issues related to payments and other claims. L&T had initially approached PI authorities to compensate them Nu 3.91 billion (B) for keeping their machines and human resources idle last year.”
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New Tobacco Act effective from July 2- Kuensel

“With the new Tobacco Act coming into effect from July 2, five men arrested for smuggling in tobacco products after July 1 this year will not be implicated and the Office of the Attorney General directed Royal Bhutan Police to release them. As Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) continues to work on the revision of tobacco rules and regulations 2011, they were released.”
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Deputy Chief of Police for Crime and Operations terminated due to Khandu Wangmo case- The Bhutanese

“The Deputy Chief of Police, Colonel Dorji Wangchuk, who looked after Crime and Operations in the RBP was terminated from service towards the end of May 2021 on the recommendation of an RBP Enquiry Committee to the Police Service Board.”
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Bhutan makes its debut appearance at the Paralympic Games- Daily Bhutan

“The tiny Himalayan kingdom is making its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics this month. Aside from that, a Bhutanese female athlete will be representing the kingdom in the Games.”
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Woman with disability makes opportunities out of a challenging life- BBS

“Pema Yuden’s journey; today, she has developed knitting and paper craft as her habits, and a couple of other life skills as well. In this story, our reporter in Bumthang takes us through the inspiring story of the 32-year-old.”
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Short on vaccines, Thailand seeks to borrow from Bhutan- Reuters

“Thailand, a regional manufacturer of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) coronavirus shots, is seeking to borrow 150,000 doses of the same vaccine from the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, an official said on Monday, amid a Thai supply shortage.”
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World Food Programme, Latest Country Brief- WFP

“Bhutan will transition to lower Middle-Income Level status by 2023 and considers WFP’s support critical to this transition process. The national poverty rate, as measured by the international poverty line of USD 1.90 per person per day (PPP), has fallen from 23 percent in 2007 to 8.2 percent in 2017.”
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Failing to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius target could be catastrophic to Maldives: Ken O’Flaherty - Raajje

While countries agreed to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius in the Paris Agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) held in 2015, UK government's COP26 Regional Ambassador to South Asia and Asia-Pacific Ken O'Flaherty has said that failing to do so could be catastrophic to Maldives and the whole region.
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'India-Maldives relations have reached new heights’ - Avas

Vice President Faisal Naseem has said that the bilateral relations between Maldives and India have reached new heights. The Vice President made the statement while speaking at a special reception held by the High Commission of India in the Maldives, to commemorate India’s 75th Independence Day.
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New foreign envoys present credentials to president - Rajje

Three more foreign envoys have presented their credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. While the new country representatives of New Mexico, Germany and Rwanda presented their credentials to the president last week, the three new envoys that submitted their letters of credence on Sunday are; new Cuban Ambassador Andrés Marcelo González Garrido, South Korean Ambassador Jeon Woonjin and the new Ambassador of Vietnam to Maldives Thi Thanh Truc.
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Deputy Speaker, MPs being targeted for attacks, says Hulhudhoo MP - Avas

Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb has said parliament members are being targeted and at the risk of being attacked. While debating the bill on birth and death registration, MP Ilyas said it is important to ensure that the right to live is fulfilled when debating such a bill. He recalled the murder of former Ungoofaaur MP Dr. Afrashim Ali, and missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, and voiced concern that the perpetrators behind the attacks remain free. He also noted that the Speaker of the Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed, who was recently targeted in an IED attack and currently in the United Kingdom, was reluctant to return to the Maldives following the attack.
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The Coup And The Crisis In Myanmar - The Organisation of World Peace

Myanmar, a nation whose young democracy began only a decade ago, is currently facing a threat it may not recover from. On February 1st of 2021, the military of Myanmar staged a coup d’état in the Southeast Asian country, overthrowing the democratic government and issuing a year-long state of emergency. Orchestrated under the idea that the nation’s November election was fraudulent, a claim that lacks any substantial evidence, the armed forces took control and arrested senior members of the elected National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
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Moving Beyond The Politics Of Recognition In Myanmar – Analysis – Eurasia review

Since the 1 February coup, Myanmar’s military government is attempting to gain international recognition and legitimacy while the country’s people continue to oppose it. The international community has emphasised the need for a peaceful resolution. Against the backdrop of this political impasse, the politics of recognition is taking centre stage — but is this helping anybody?
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Chair of pro-military political party in Kayah State stabbed to death - Myanmar Now

Four unidentified men stabbed and killed the chair of the junta-allied National Democratic Force’s (NDF) Kayah (Karenni) State chapter at his home in the capital of Loikaw on Friday. Seventy-year-old Han Thar died on the spot after being stabbed three times in the neck and once in the chest, according to a member of a local charity team that helped his family bring his body to the Loikaw public hospital.
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Five police officers shot dead in attack on Yangon train - Myanmar Now

A group of unidentified attackers shot and killed five police officers on the Yangon circle line on Saturday evening, a striking train worker told Myanmar Now. The gunmen rode the train and then launched the attack when it stopped at a station near Ahlone Township, the worker said on condition of anonymity, citing a railway police officer who is familiar with the case.
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Nepal seeks international help to evacuate its nationals from Afghanistan - ANI

“Nepal has sought help from various countries and the United Nations for the rescue and safety of its nationals working at various diplomatic missions and international organisations as the crisis continues to unfold in the war-torn country. In a press statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has requested Nepali nationals currently in Afghanistan to get in contact and have written to foreign countries to help to evacuate them.”
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Govt's move to prorogue Parliament condemned- Himalayan Times

“The government prorogued the current session of the Parliament with effect from midnight today, drawing condemnation from the CPN-UML and the Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal.”
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Do not take the economy for granted: Achyut Wagle- The Kathmandu Post

“Except for putting proper focus on procuring enough doses of vaccines against Covid-19, the current administration, like its predecessor, is scrambling to manage multifaceted logistics and operations related to the coronavirus pandemic. It also appears underwhelmed by unprecedented incidences of calamities like floods and landslides.”
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Nepal Covid-19 tally: 3,451 new cases, 2,458 recoveries, 35 deaths in 24 hours- Online Khabar

“The Ministry of Health and Population has informed that the country’s Covid-19 tally has reached 810,853 as of Monday afternoon. The ministry said 3,451 new cases were confirmed in the country in the past 24 hours.”
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First phase construction of Koshi Corridor 220 KV transmission line completed- Republica

“The construction of the first section of Koshi Corridor 220 KV transmission line has concluded. The transmission line is expected to help evacuate around 2,000 MW of electricity produced by hydropower projects based on Arun River and Tamor River basins.”
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Main oppn party draws attention of govt to help address demands of agitating ex-Gurkha veterans- Republica

“The main opposition party, CPN-UML has drawn attention of the government to help address demands put forth by the agitating former Gurkha veterans. The ex-Gurkha veterans have been staging a relay hunger strike in front of the office of the British Prime Minister in London demanding equal pension pay.”
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Islamabad urges Afghan parties to reach settlement: Dawn

Amid reports of the Taliban having taken complete control of Afghanistan, Pakistan on Monday urged all stakeholders in the neigbouring country to reach a political settlement, respect rule of law, protect human rights and ensure that Afghan soil is not used by any terrorist organisation or group against any country. While describing it as ‘the way forward’, participants in the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting reaffirmed that Pakistan would “continue to work with the international community and all Afghan stakeholders to facilitate an inclusive political settlement” for the representation of all Afghan ethnic groups.

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Qureshi slams India after Pakistan again denied opportunity to address UNSC meet on Afghanistan: Dawn

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday slammed India for its "partisan and obstructionist actions" after Pakistan was denied the opportunity to address a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Afghanistan for the second time this month.
India, the UNSC president for the current month, had earlier denied Pakistan the opportunity to speak during the council's meeting on August 6.

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Russia to continue talks with Pakistan, China over Afghan crisis: The Express Tribune

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the situation in Afghanistan by phone and agreed to continue talks with China, Pakistan and the United Nations, Russia said on Monday. The Russian foreign ministry said Blinken informed Lavrov about the actions the US administration is now undertaking, particularly about the evacuation of US embassy staff and solving acute humanitarian issues.

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Saudi Chief of General Staff calls on PM, COAS separately: The News

Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia General Fayyadh bin Hameed Al-Rowailly called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa separately on Monday. Reaffirming the close fraternal ties between Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday underscored Pakistan’s commitment and support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom.

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Intensity of fourth corona wave rises: The News

he intensity of fourth wave of coronavirus continues as seventy-two more people died and 3,669 people tested positive due to coronavirus during the last 24 hours.As per the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) data, tally of fatalities has soared to 24,478. Total number of positive cases stand at 1.12 million. Some 53,644 coronavirus tests were conducted across the country in the last 24 hours out of which 3,669 came out positive. The positivity ratio stands at currently 6.8%. Some 989,013 patients have recovered while active cases stand at 88,588.

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Sri Lanka
3,466 persons test positive for COVID-19, over 3,000 delayed cases added to total detections - DailyFT

Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 detections rose to 362,074 with 3,466 persons testing positive for COVID-19 yesterday and over 3,000 delayed cases being added to the total patient count. The Epidemiology Unit yesterday added 3,640 cases reported in the last five days to the total patient count. According to Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr. Ranjith Batuwanthudawa, steps are being taken to fix any inaccuracies in COVID-19 data.

“Data is not being hidden and this is being closely studied at the moment. The Health Ministry is working hard to right this wrong,” he said. The Health Promotion Bureau Director added that PCR testing numbers had not been reported properly for the past two days either. The Bureau’s website shows daily investigation numbers until 13 August only. Dr. Batuwanthudawa added that all first contacts of COVID-19 patients should quarantine for 14 days and get tested at the end of the quarantine period.

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Cleansing social media or thought control (Columns) - The Sunday Times

Earlier this month, Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva made an impassioned call in parliament for a ban on social media or a tough regulatory system to keep it in check. What prompted Minister de Silva’s appeal for action against these media platforms and websites was the recent exposure of the sexual abuse of an underaged girl. Last week the Colombo Magistrate ordered the telecommunications authorities to crack down on four websites allegedly connected with this sex-for-sale promotion.

Minister de Silva’s call for coming down hard on such abuse of technological resources is justified. It is this kind of abuse that brings journalism itself a bad name because such commercial exploitation of the means of communication is mistakenly or deliberately linked with journalism and media at large, particularly by those who find media freedom an obstacle to their free-wheeling politics. It gives critics in search of opportunities to castigate the media generally for honest assessments of the performance of successive governments on the ground to tarnish all media with the same brush for the indiscretions of a few who are not media professionals like those supposedly involved in the lamentable episode referred to by Minister de Silva.

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NEWSSEC received over Rs 1 bn for unfinished Inland Revenue building project – COPA - The Island

The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) has questioned the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue Department to use a building at Colpetty rented at a cost of Rs.5.08 mn. According to the first COPA report handed over to Parliament, on July 20, by the watchdog’s Chairman Prof. Tissa Vitarana, the Inland Revenue Department abandoned plans to set up ‘Tax Services Division’ due to strong objections by employees.

The report also exposed the utterly irresponsible conduct of the State Engineering Corporation (SEC) as regards a finalized agreement to build a 9 storeyed vehicle park at a cost of Rs 1,430.5 mn for the Inland Revenue. Of that amount, Rs 1,399.7 mn had been paid to the SEC by Dec 31, 2018 without paying attention to progress. The report revealed that the SEC had awarded all work to private sub-contractors although the state enterprise accepted the contract.

The Inland Revenue has taken up the position that a state institution couldn’t initiate legal action for violating an agreement. However, the COPA hasn’t made remedial measures to address the issue at hand. Prof. Vitarana told The Island that the matter needs careful consideration particularly at a time the country was experiencing a severe financial crisis.

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FM to repatriate over 40 Sri Lankans in Kabul - Ceylon Today

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to repatriate a group of 43 Sri Lankans currently residing in Kabul, owing to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. The Ministry, in a statement, noted that they are currently in the process of working with international partners to facilitate the return of Sri Lankan nationals in Afghanistan if they wish to return.

Moreover, it was noted that the Sri Lanka Embassy in Kabul already have collected details of 43 individuals, while Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLBFE) has certain details as well. The Embassy, however, is currently functioning from a hotel with only one staff member and does not have any Sri Lankan nationals present.

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HSBC launches Project CORE – their biggest initiative ever in Sri Lanka to tackle climate change - The Island

HSBC has committed LKR48.2m for Project CORE (Climate-smart Opportunities through Restoration and Education): a first of its kind, science-backed restoration initiative combining nature-based knowledge, ecosystem best practices, youth involvement and innovation to enhance ecosystem sustainability. The project aims to restore 125ha of degraded land in the Thanthirimale area over a period of four years, addressing multiple societal challenges by enhancing disaster resilience, addressing income challenges, improving ecosystem services and biodiversity in line with the Nature Based Solutions(NbS) approach. Engaging the community through developing an understanding of the value of conservation and restoration is also a critical outcome of Project CORE.

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