The leader of the coup in Myanmar has made his first TV address, seeking to justify the action amid mass protests. A protester holds a photo of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup. Photo: AFP Min Aung Hlaing said November's election, won in a landslide by the party of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had been unfair. The military has begun to impose restrictions in some areas, including curfews and limits to gatherings. Huge protests were held on Monday for a third straight day, along with a nationwide strike, to oppose the coup. One demonstrating doctor - who did not want to be named - told the BBC: "Today, we, professionals - especially civil servant professionals such as doctors, engineers and teachers - came out to show that we are all together in this. Our objective is the same - to make the dictatorship fall." The general's speech drew angry opposition, with images on social media showing people banging pots and pans in protest in front of television screens. The military seized power last week and declared a year-long state of emergency in Myanmar, also known as Burma, with power handed over to General Min Aung Hlaing. Suu Kyi and senior leaders of her National League for Democracy Party (NLD), including President Win Myint, have been put under house arrest. An Australian economic adviser to Suu Kyi, Sean Turnell, has also been detained and on Monday his family posted a statement on Facebook calling for his immediate release. What did the general say? Min Aung Hlaing's speech focused more on the reasons for the coup and less on threats to protesters. He said the electoral commission had failed to investigate irregularities over voter lists in the November election and had not allowed fair campaigning. The commission had said there was no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud. Min Aung Hlaing, wearing green military uniform, promised new elections and to hand power to the winner. A new "reformed" election commission would oversee it. He also said his rule would be "different" from what was effectively a 49-year military grip on power that ended in 2011 and which saw brutal crackdowns in 1988 and 2007. He spoke of achieving a "true and disciplined democracy", a phrase that drew scorn from some opponents of the coup on social media. Myanmar military chief General Min Aung Hlaing makes an announcement on the nationwide demonstrations being held in protest over the military coup. Photo: AFP He also told citizens to "go with the true facts and not to follow feelings of your own". The general did not issue direct threats to protesters, saying only that no-one was above the law. But some areas have seen clampdowns, with parts of Yangon and second city Mandalay, along with other areas, under a 20:00 to 04:00 curfew and with gatherings limited to groups of five or less. Earlier, a broadcast on state TV warned "action must be taken, according to the law... against offences that disturb, prevent and destroy state stability, public safety and the rule of law". Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said: "For a military coup government that has trampled all over democracy and the rule of law, it's absurd for them to claim they have any right to 'legal action' against peaceful protesters." Who has been on the streets? Tens of thousands gathered on Monday in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, for the strike, with other cities such as Mandalay and Yangon also reporting significant numbers, according to BBC Burmese. The protesters include teachers, lawyers, bank officers and government workers. Online there had been calls asking workers to skip work to protest. "This is a work day, but we aren't going to work even if our salary will be cut," one protester, 28-year-old garment factory worker, Hnin Thazin, told news agency AFP. People holding placards shout slogans of anti-coup as they protest against the military coup. Photo: AFP Another protester, Hnin Hayman Soe, told the BBC she had joined the protest alongside her children, nieces and nephews. "We can see many young people can't accept the military junta. We can even see teenagers here," she said. A few injuries have been reported, but no violence. However, a water cannon was activated in Nay Pyi Taw to disperse crowds. A video appears to show protesters rubbing their eyes and helping one another after being soaked. Kyaw Zeyar Oo, who took the video, told the BBC two vehicles had sprayed protesters with "no prior warning", while "the crowd was peacefully protesting in front of [the police]". The BBC's Nyein Chan Aye, in Yangon, says Buddhist monks, members of the minority Muslim community, top footballers and film and music stars have all been joining the anti-coup protests, which he says are expected to become more organised in the coming days. - BBC
largest inoculation drive.
A sanitation worker became the first Indian to receive a Covid vaccine as the country began the world’s largest inoculation drive.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the programme, which aims to vaccinate more than 1.3 billion people against Covid.
He paid tribute to front-line workers who will be the first to receive jabs.
India has recorded the second-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world after the United States.
Millions of doses of two approved vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin – were shipped across the country in the days leading up to the start of the drive.
“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi, said, addressing the country on Saturday morning.
He added that India was well prepared to vaccinate its population with the help of an app, which would help the government track the drive and ensure that nobody was left out.
Modi spoke at length about doctors, nurses and other front-line workers “who showed us the light” in “dark times”.
“They stayed away from their families to serve humanity. And hundreds of them never went home. They gave their life to save others. And that is why the first jabs are being given to healthcare workers – this is our way of paying respect to them.”
Modi also appealed to people to continue adhering to Covid-19 safety protocols like wearing masks and following social distancing. He said the country cannot afford to be complacent as vaccinating the entire population will take time.
He also urged people not to believe any “propaganda and rumours about the safety of the vaccines”.
“I want to tell people that the approval to these vaccines was given only after scientists and experts were satisfied about its safety,” he said.
An estimated 10 million health workers will be vaccinated in the first round, followed by policemen, soldiers, municipal and other front-line workers.
Next in line will be people aged over 50 and anyone under 50 with serious underlying health conditions. India’s electoral rolls, which contain details of some 900 million voters, will be used to identify eligible recipients.
The government plans to vaccinate 300 million people by early August. This will happen in state-run health care centres, schools, colleges, community halls, municipal offices and wedding halls.
Several hospitals across India are giving the first doses of the vaccine.
Dr Atul Peters was among those who got the jab at Max hospital.
“It’s a very big day. I’m grateful to those who worked hard to make this a reality. I was very very happy when I got a call informing me that my name was on the list.
“We worked hard during the pandemic to save lives and we are also taking the jab first to dispel fears in people’s minds that the vaccine is not safe,” he told the BBC.
India’s drug regulator has given the green light to two vaccines – Covishield (the local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the UK) and Covaxin, locally-made by pharma company Bharat Biotech.
But concerns have been raised over the efficacy of Covaxin because the regulator’s emergency approval came before the completion of Phase 3 clinical trials. The regulator and the manufacturer have said the vaccine is safe, and that the efficacy data would be available by February.
Both vaccines will be given as two injections, 28 days apart, with the second dose being a booster. Immunity would begin to kick in after the first dose but reaches its full effect 14 days after the second dose.
The status of the vaccines and recipients will be electronically tracked in real time – some 8 million people who will receive the early jabs have been already registered. More than 600,000 people have been trained for the drive.
The jabs will be voluntary, and recipients will be given a certificate of vaccination after they complete both doses.
“I expect India’s vaccination programme will be run much better than most countries because of the considerable government investment and early preparedness,” Dr Gagandeep Kang, one of India’s best-known vaccine experts, told the BBC.