Rohingya insurgents declare month-long ceasefire in Myanmar

Rohingya insurgents have declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire to enable aid groups to help ease a humanitarian crisis in north-west Myanmar.


Nearly 300,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh and 30,000 non-Muslim civilians have been displaced inside Myanmar after the military launched a counter-offensive following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgents on 30 police posts and an army base on August 25.

“ARSA strongly encourages all concerned humanitarian actors resume their humanitarian assistance to all victims of the humanitarian crisis, irrespective of ethnic or religious background during the ceasefire period,” ARSA said in a statement.


The impact of the ceasefire, beginning on Sunday, is unclear. The group does not appear to have been able to put up significant resistance against the military force unleashed in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state.

In the past two weeks, thousands of homes have been burned down, dozens of villagers uprooted and thousands of people are still on the move towards the border with Bangladesh.

The wave of hungry and traumatised refugees pouring into Bangladesh has strained aid agencies and local communities already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous waves of violence in Myanmar.

In its statement, ARSA called on the military to also lay down arms and allow humanitarian aid to all affected people.

Myanmar says its security forces are carrying out clearance operations to defend against ARSA, which the government has declared a terrorist organisation.

0:00 Rally in Pakistan against persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar Share Rally in Pakistan against persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population.

On Friday, the United Nations in Bangladesh found tens of thousands of refugees who had not been counted before, raising the count to 270,000 from about 164,000 the day before. On Saturday, that jumped by another 20,000 to 290,000.

Aid workers say a serious humanitarian crisis is also unfolding on the Myanmar side of the border.

Red Cross organisations are scaling up their operations in Rakhine after the UN had to suspend activities there following government suggestions that its agency had supported the insurgents.

Thousands of displaced people in Rakhine have been stranded or left without food for weeks. Many are still trying to cross mountains, dense bush and rice fields to reach Bangladesh.


Nationals vote against banning burqa and other facial coverings

The Nationals MP behind a push to ban the burqa has vowed to continue the campaign despite the party’s conference voting against making it official policy.


North Queensland federal MP George Christensen argues a ban on burqas, niqabs and other facial coverings is needed in government buildings and public spaces for security reasons – but also says his party is “bleeding to the right” on the issue.

The motion was defeated 55-51 in a vote of delegates at the Nationals’ federal conference in Canberra on Sunday.

It follows Pauline Hanson’s stunt in parliament last month, where the One Nation leader wore a burqa in the Senate.

Mr Christensen said his electorate strongly supported the ban and he would continue to push for it to become government policy.

“We bleed to the right on these issues where we do not listen to our constituents,” he told the conference.

My statement on @The_Nationals federal conference motion on banning facial coverings. #auspol pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/qtnjYGrfaJ

— George Christensen (@GChristensenMP) September 9, 2017

“Why do you think Pauline Hanson recently took up this issue? Because people support the banning of it, full stop.”

He wrote on Twitter shortly after the narrow defeat that several delegates in favour of the ban hadn’t been able to be present for the vote.

Mr Christensen’s fellow federal MPs Matt Canavan, Kevin Hogan and David Gillespie supported him during the debate.

Their federal colleagues Mark Coulton and Keith Pitt and NSW upper house member Wes Fang spoke against the motion.

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NSW party member Jessica Price-Purnell was the only non-politician to speak on the motion and she won applause for telling the elected members off for hijacking the conference.

“You guys have enough forums,” she said.

She also argued the motion went against the party’s tenets of freedom of speech and religious activity.

Mr Coulton – the only other speaker to win applause – said the conference shouldn’t be used for MPs to debate things that could be thrashed out in the party room and doubted the supporters’ insistence it was simply about public safety.

“Despite George’s eloquent introduction to this, tomorrow’s headlines will be the Nationals are banning the burqa and the Nationals … are anti-Muslim,” he said.

“I’m worried that this is part of a bigger cause where we can look as Australians and, if things aren’t going as well as we’d like, we can look to people who are different and say it’s their fault.”

If it were about security, his electorate would be banning sunglasses and hoodies.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said his party wasn’t scared of political debate but had to make sure it didn’t insult another religion.

“In the (agriculture) sector, we do a lot of business with Islamic countries,” he told ABC TV.

“I get along with them, they get along with me, and I just want to make sure that relationship continues on.”


Mexico mourns 90 people killed by earthquake

“It’s 71 (dead).


Just for Oaxaca,” said Jesus Gonzalez, a spokesman for the state civil protection authority.

At least 15 people died in the neighbouring state of Chiapas, according to local authorities, while another four deaths have also been confirmed in the state of Tabasco to the north.

The 8.1-magnitude quake that struck off the coast of Chiapas on Thursday was stronger than a devastating 1985 quake that flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands.


Relief efforts in the south continued through Saturday, with many of the people worst affected still wary of returning indoors to weakened buildings, fearing they could be brought down by ongoing aftershocks.

Teams of soldiers and federal police armed with shovels and sledgehammers fanned out across neighbourhoods to assist in demolition of damaged buildings.

Dump trucks choked some narrow streets as they began hauling away the many tons of rubble.

0:00 Death toll rises after quake devastates Mexico Share Death toll rises after quake devastates Mexico

Work by residents to clear the streets and lots that held their collapsed homes was slowed by aftershocks throughout Saturday.

There were scenes of mourning in Juchitan, where a third of the city’s homes collapsed or were uninhabitable, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said. Part of the city hall collapsed.

On the outskirts of the city, the general hospital continued to settle into its temporary home – a school gymnasium with gurneys parked atop the basketball court.

The earthquake rendered the hospital uninhabitable, so the gym contained a mix of patients that pre-dated the quake and those who suffered injuries as a result of it.

Pope Francis, addressing an open air mass on a visit to Colombia, said he was praying “for those who have lost their lives and their families”.


Irma begins assault on Florida Keys

Hurricane Irma has begun its assault on Florida with the storm’s northern eyewall reaching the lower Florida Keys as a powerful Category 4 storm.


Irma lashed the area with maximum sustained winds near 215km/h and the US National Hurricane Centre said it was expected to remain a powerful storm as it moved through the Florida Keys and near the state’s west coast.

As of 2100 AEST on Sunday, the hurricane was centred about 25km south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and was moving northwest at 13km/h.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for a wide swath of Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida. There were no immediate reports of tornadoes touching down.

Tens of thousands in Florida are huddled in shelters as the hurricane threatens to make a catastrophic hit on the state. Around 6.3 million people – about 30 per cent of the state’s population – have been been told to evacuate.

In the Tampa Bay area, access to all of Pinellas County’s barrier islands, including the popular spring break destination of Clearwater Beach, was shut off.

The leading edge of the immense storm bent palm trees and spit rain across South Florida, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.

More than 500,000 homes in Florida have lost power, energy company FPL reports on its website. Irma could eventually leave millions of homes in the state without electricity, experts said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott had warned residents in the state’s evacuation zones on Saturday that “this is your last chance to make a good decision.”

But because the storm is up to 640km wide, the entire Florida peninsula was exposed. Forecasters said the greater Miami area of six million people could still get life-threatening hurricane winds and storm surge of 4m.

Irma was at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic with a peak wind speed of 300km/h last week. It left more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean and as it moved north over the Gulf of Mexico’s bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees, it was expected to regain strength.

Meteorologists predicted Irma would plough into the Tampa Bay area Monday morning. The area has not been struck by a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000, National Hurricane Centre spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. Now around three million people live there.

Motorcycling – Marquez ties at the top with wet San Marino win

Marquez and Dovizioso are now tied on 199 points with Spaniard Maverick Vinales, who finished fourth for Yamaha, third on 183.


The top two have both won four races but Marquez has more second places.

Vinales had started on pole position and was the sole works Yamaha rider in the race after Italian Valentino Rossi, who is fourth in the championship on 157 points, broke his leg in training last week.

However it was fellow-Spaniard and triple MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo who made a lightning start to take the lead on the opening lap for Ducati.

Lorenzo pulled away but crashed on the seventh of 28 laps, flipping off the bike at turn six and handing the lead to Petrucci.

The Italian, who has yet to win a race in the top category, then led the next 20 on his Pramac Ducati with Marquez closing in and biding his time before making the move at the start of the last lap.

“In rainy conditions you never know but I was trying to control all the race, trying to control myself because I was able to be a little bit faster but I said ‘you must be patient’,” said Marquez.

“For a moment I thought of staying in second position. Then on the last lap I said ‘I try’. This championship is really tight and five points can be a lot in the end.”

“After Silverstone this victory is really important for myself and the team,” added the 24-year-old, who retired with a blown engine in the previous round in Britain. His last lap was also the fastest of the race.

Dovizioso, who would have been the oldest rider to win three races in a row since Australian Mick Doohan in 1998 had he continued his run of success from Austria and Silverstone, said he was happy with a first podium at Misano.

“I was there, but I wasn’t feeling so good on the bike so the risk was too high. Everybody almost crashed today,” he said.

“It was a very difficult weekend but we are there and did another podium in a strange and difficult moment.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)