Asian Insider, March 24: Youngest victim of Myanmar violence; Airlifted bride joins floods clean-up

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents and commentators.

Hi all,

In today's bulletin: Seven-year-old killed in Myanmar as junta frees 600 detainees; US blasts China's 'maritime militia'; India detects new double mutant variant of coronavirus; China ban sours Taiwan's 'freedom pineapple' harvest; Bride who got caught in Australian floods joins clean-up, and more.

Reading this on the web or know someone who might enjoy receiving Asian Insider? Our sign-up page is here.

Seven-year-old killed in Myanmar as junta frees 600 detainees

A seven-year-old girl in Mandalay became the youngest victim of the crisis in Myanmar when security forces opened fire on her home during a crackdown. Reports said soldiers aimed their weapons at her father but ended up hitting the girl who was sitting on his lap. Two other men were also killed in the district.

As relentless protests continued, Myanmar authorities freed 600 detainees, although their motives for doing so were not immediately clear. Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun has blamed the bloodshed on the protesters and said nine people from the security forces also died.

Meanwhile, there was speculation over Indonesian President Joko Widodo's call for a high-level Asean leaders meeting on Myanmar, as Mr Widodo has been seen as leaving foreign policy matters to Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi. It could be because of growing concern over implications of the instability to the rest of the region, experts said. (For subscribers)

Also read

Malaysia puts deportations to Myanmar on hold till after Asean meets

US blasts China's 'maritime militia', backs Philippines in latest sea spat

The sudden presence of 200 fishing boats near a disputed South China Sea reef has led to fresh tensions between China and the Philippines, with the United States coming forward to back the latter.

China said earlier that these vessels were "fishing boats" sheltering from poor weather but Manila has urged China to "immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory".

The US has accused Beijing of using "maritime militia to intimidate, provoke and threaten other nations".

India detects new double mutant variant of the disease

India has detected a "double mutant variant" of the coronavirus, the Health Ministry said, although details of the variant were not readily available. However, its appearance at a time when the number of coronavirus infections are rising once again, has been causing much alarm.

The variant appeared in the state of Maharashtra, one of the worst affected states, although officials said it wasn't clear if this was causing a spike in the number of cases in the state or elsewhere in the country. India has already reported several cases of other well known variants, including the ones detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

In another development, China's drug authority approved for clinical trials an inhaled Covid-19 vaccine co-developed by domestic firm CanSino Biologics. With this, China has five coronavirus vaccines that have been given conditional market approval or allowed for emergency use. CanSino's latest vaccine is the first to be allowed for inhalation.

Also read

Hong Kong clinic punished for recommending foreign vaccine over Chinese jab

China ban sours Taiwan's 'freedom pineapple' harvest

A Chinese ban on imports of pineapple from Taiwan has stoked tensions between the two neighbours but it also led to a patriotic buying of the fruit in Taiwan. Calls to buy more pineapple are ample on social media while restaurants are trying to come up with new recipes to encourage people to order pineapple made dishes and drinks at their outlets.

Nearly 90 per cent of Taiwan's pineapple exports in the past have been destined for China and a scramble is now on for new markets. Taiwan has rejected accusations by China that the fruits were infested with pests, saying 99.8 per cent of previous exports to China had cleared inspection.

Also read

Taiwan to help allies buy Covid-19 vaccines, but not from China

China threat to Taiwan 'closer than most think': US admiral

70 police reports against Singaporean-run crypto trading platform Torque

At least 70 police reports have been lodged against an online cryptocurrency trading platform Torque, with investors claiming that they had lost millions in cryptocurrencies. More than 14,000 investors from over 120 countries had invested in the company. A preliminary review of Torque's record and investor database suggests that creditor claims could be around US$325 million (S$436 million) as of March 2. (For subscribers)

In other news

Airlifted bride joins Australian floods clean-up: The bride, who got caught up in Australian floods and had to be airlifted to her wedding after being stranded has told media that just a day after her wedding, she has donned gumboots and is helping to clean-up the house of her godmother, who was evacuated. Honeymoon? That will be sometime later.

Deadly fire in Bangladeshi Rohingya camp: A deadly fire gutted some 10,000 refugee shanties in Cox's Bazaar, leaving 15 people dead and nearly 50,000 people homeless. Preliminary reports said the fire originated from a stove in a shelter and reports said several refugees couldn't flee because of barbed wire fences around the vast camps. Authorities, however, defended the use of barbed wire fences.

That's it for today. Thanks for reading The Straits Times and today's Asian Insider newsletter. We'll be back tomorrow.

Shefali

Want more insights into fast-changing Asia from our network of correspondents? Get this article in your inbox by signing up here.