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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - March 2019

Mar 2019

Mar 31, 2019

Australia to Toughen Laws on Social Media

  • Australia pledged to introduce new laws that could see social media executives jailed and tech giants fined billions for failing to remove extremist material from their platforms.
  • The tough new legislation will be brought to Parliament next week as Canberra pushes for social media companies to prevent their platforms from being weaponised by terrorists in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Russia Operating Helicopter Training Centre in Venezuela

  • Russia's arms export company has opened a training centre for military helicopter pilots in Venezuela after Moscow flew in troops and equipment.
  • The centre that trains pilots to fly Russian-built Mil helicopters was built on the basis of a contract between Rosoboronexport and state-run Venezuelan Military Industrial Company Cavim. The announcement came after two Russian military planes landed a week ago at the main airport outside Caracas and offloaded equipment and troops.

Mar 30, 2019

Alaa Abdel Fattah Released

  • Egypt's most prominent pro-democracy activist, Alaa Abdel Fattah, was released on probation after five years in prison on charges of organising an illegal protest. The outspoken dissident and blogger was an iconic figure of the Arab Spring revolution that unseated Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Cash for Information on Illegal Religious Groups

  • A southern Chinese city is offering cash rewards for information about illegal religious groups as the ruling Communist Party continues to tighten its grip over faith communities.
  • As per a notice posted on the official website of the Guangzhou Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, up to 10,000 yuan ($15,000) would be paid for verified information and assistance in hunting down key members and leaders of illegal foreign religious groups.

Red Cross to Send Aid to Venezuela

  • The Red Cross announced that it would begin impartially distributing humanitarian aid in crisis-torn Venezuela in two weeks and would not allow any political interference in the operation.
  • According to Francesco Rocca, head of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the organisation would begin distributing aid that President Nicolás Maduro has to date refused to allow into the country, leaving it stockpiled since mid-February on the borders with Colombia and Brazil.

Mar 29, 2019

China Asks US to Act Cautiously

  • China said that the US has complicated the issue of listing Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by moving a separate resolution at the UN Security Council (UNSC), bypassing the anti-terror committee in the UN itself where Beijing has repeatedly blocked the listing process.
  • Beijing's sharp reaction came after the US, supported by France and the UK, moved a draft resolution at the UNSC to list the Pakistan-based terror group's chief.

Maldives Former President Freed

  • A Maldives court ordered the release of former President Abdulla Yameen, who was arrested in mid-February on charges of money laundering.
  • According to the Male-based Maldives Independent, the decision on his release came on procedural grounds, after the composition of the three-judge bench hearing the case was changed. The ex-President, who had earlier been held at the Maafushi prison, was transferred out, and held under "house arrest" before his release.
  • The development comes with less than a fortnight left for the Maldives's parliamentary election.

Russian Troops to Stay in Venezuela

  • According to Russia, its troops will stay in Venezuela for as long as needed, rejecting U.S. President Donald Trump's demand that Russia removes its military from the crisis-stricken country.

Mar 28, 2019

Thailand Parties Form Coalition

  • Seven political parties formed a coalition in Thailand, vowing to thwart a military-backed proxy in a bid to end years of junta rule following the country's first election since a 2014 coup.
  • A junta-aligned party and its main rival have both claimed the right to govern the country after Sunday's vote, prompting a political standoff. Questions over irregularities are swirling following invalidated ballots and accusations of skewed numbers.
  • Pheu Thai, affiliated with self exiled former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, joined forces with six other parties in a bid to halt military-backed factions from leading the country.

May to Quit Before Next Brexit Talks

  • Theresa May confirmed that she will not remain the British Prime Minister to oversee the next stage of Brexit negotiations, as she made a final attempt to persuade Conservative MPs to rally behind her Brexit deal, in a vote that could take place later this week.
  • She took the decision as the mood of Conservatives in Parliament had become clear.
  • Speculation had been building that the Prime Minister could announce that she would step down earlier than previously indicated to persuade Brexit hardliners in her party to back the deal. While earlier this week, she had told MPs that she did not believe she had the sufficient numbers to get the withdrawal deal through.

U.S. House Fails to Override Trump's Veto

  • The U.S. House of Representatives failed to override President Donald Trump's veto on an earlier House and Senate measure to overturn Mr. Trump's national emergency declaration to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
  • House vote, 248-181 in favour of overriding Mr. Trump's veto, failed to meet the two-third majority mark despite 14 Republicans crossing the aisle and voting with Democrats against the veto.

Mar 27, 2019

MPs Wrest Control of Brexit Process

  •  British MPs are set to debate and take part in a series of indicative votes to help chart a course that could command support in the Parliament.
  • This came after the government suffered a major political defeat, as MPs voted to wrest control of the Brexit timetable from the government, to hold the votes, despite assurances from the government that it would be willing to hold a series of such votes itself.
  • Three ministers resigned in order to be able to vote for the amendment.
  • It also comes as the government continues to struggle to rally MPs behind the Prime Minister's controversial withdrawal deal.
  • While some hard line Brexiteers, notably European Research Group chair Jacob Rees-Mogg, have indicated their willingness to support the deal if it means avoiding no Brexit at all, the Democratic Unionist Party and other Conservative MPs have held fast in their opposition, a day after the Prime Minister acknowledged she didn't have the majority in Parliament but warned that the alternatives included no Brexit at all or a slow Brexit.

China Destroys Maps Showing Wrong Border

  •  China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of south Tibet, and routinely objects to Indian leaders visiting the State to highlight its stand.
  • The two countries have so far held 21 rounds of talks to resolve the border dispute covering the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control.
  • The maps were meant for export to an unspecified country.
  • Almost 30,000 incorrect world maps, showing Taiwan as a separate country and wrong depiction of the Sino-Indian border, were destroyed by the customs authorities in Qingdao in eastern Shandong province.
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