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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #21, 24 June 2023, Saturday

Sri Lankan President meets UN Secretary General

Taliban's recognition depends on their behaviour toward women: US

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #21, 24 June 2023, Saturday
By Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Ryan Marcus and Lakshmi Parimala H

564 loan sharking disputes solved through a compromise decree
On 24 June, The Kathmandu Post reported on loan sharking disputes. Loan sharking refers to the practice of lending money at extremely high rates of interest. The lenders charged high-interest rates, which the borrowers could not pay, thus being forced to register their land under the lender's name. An inquiry commission was set up to solve disputes in loan sharking through compromise and mutual consent. According to the chairperson of the commission, 564 cases have been settled so far through compromise decree. One of the lenders to compromise is the fear of the new ordinance introduced on 3 May criminalizes loan sharking. (Prithvi Man Shrestha, "564 cases of usury settled through compromise, commission says," The Kathmandu Post, 24 June 2023)

BR (Bangladesh Railways) seeks a comprehensive proposal over an Indian trial run 
On 24 June, The Daily Star reported on India's proposal for train movement through Bangladesh. The Indian Railways sought to carry out trial runs of a freight train from Gede to Haldibari in West Bengal through Bangladesh. In response, the Bangladesh Railways asked for a comprehensive proposal. It stated: "It is not clear to us whether India wants transit or transhipment facility. It is also not clear to us whether they want the facility for passenger or freight trains. That's why we sought the clarification." Further, inter-ministerial meeting, the consideration for security, revenue collection and tariff, the potential of export to Nepal and Bhutan via India and the capacity of Bangladesh Railways was emphasized before taking any decision. (Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary, "Indian train operations on Bangladesh track: India wants trial, BR seeks clear proposal," The Daily Star, 24 June 2023)

The Junta uses an informal talk held by Thailand to spread propaganda, says the Irrawaddy
On 25 June, The Irrawaddy reported that the Junta in Myanmar is using an informal discussion hosted by Thailand to spread propaganda. Thailand invited the foreign ministers from ASEAN to prepare for Myanmar's re-engagement at the leaders' level. Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia criticized the talks, while other ASEAN members participated. The Junta's foreign minister claimed that accurate information about Myanmar was blocked and blamed ethnic armed organizations for the violence. The Junta's indiscriminate attacks on civilians were downplayed, and the shadow National Unity Government and its armed wing People's Defense Force were blamed for killing "over 5,800 unarmed civilians." The talks drew criticism for legitimizing the Junta and causing division among ASEAN members, further raising questions about vested interests and damaging Thailand's international standing. ("Myanmar Junta Turns Thai-Sponsored Talks Into Propaganda Tool," The Irrawaddy, 24 June 2023)

Civil court reinstates decision to halt MRM's dissolution 
On 23 June, the civil court told the Election Commission that it could not review its order to halt the dissolution of the Maldives Reform Movement (MRM), a party founded by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The court cited that the EC failed to mention any non-disclosure from MRM that may hinder the issuance of the order in absentia. The civil court's decision to not review will bar EC from enforcing the dissolution of MRM. ("Order on halting MRM's dissolution upheld," Sun.mv, 24 June 2023)

President meets UN Secretary-General 
On 22 June, President Ranil Wickremesinghe held a bilateral meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres along the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact. During the meeting, the President conveyed Sri Lanka's progress in economic recovery and debt restructuring efforts. Further, he mentioned the Government's climate prosperity plan to face climate change-induced challenges while ensuring sustainable development. Guterres, in turn, expressed his support towards Sri Lanka's economic recovery and commended its efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ("President, UN Secretary General discuss Economic Recovery, Climate Prosperity Plan at Summit in Paris," The Island, 24 June 2023)

Sri Lanka to barter tea-for-oil with Iran 
On 23 June, Reuters reported that Sri Lanka would start bartering tea to Iran from July in exchange for USD 250 million owed for oil. The move aims to boost sales to a key market and protect forex reserves. The barter was agreed upon in 2021 in exchange for the oil imported in 2012 but was delayed due to Sri Lanka's dollar shortage in 2022. The agreement was to export USD 5 million worth of tea for 48 months, but Sri Lanka plans to start with USD 2 million. Sri Lanka's Tea Board Chairman Niraj Mel stated the barter is timely as it permits Sri Lanka's access to the market without relying on dollars. ("Sri Lanka set to start tea-for-oil barter with Iran next month, "Reuters, 23 June 2023)

Saudi Arabia and Iran to improve hajj services
On 23 June, Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia cooperated and improved services for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Saudi Arabia will host over 2.6 million pilgrims during the hajj season, of which 87,550 are expected to be Iranians. Regional conflicts earlier made it difficult for Iranian pilgrims to perform Hajj and Umrah. However, the recent rapprochement between the two, brokered by China, has improved services for the annual pilgrimage. ("Saudi-Iran thaw improves haj services for Iranian pilgrims,Reuters, 23 June 2023)

Iranian Army launches strategic UAV base
On 23 June, Tehran Times reported that the army coordinator Habibollah Sayyari visited various parts of the strategic base and inaugurated the first UAV base. In a meeting with the commanders, Sayyari praised the unit's performance. Additionally, he noted the progress in electronic warfare and the efforts of Iranian youth. ("Iranian army launches strategic UAV base,Tehran Times, 23 June 2023)

Taliban's recognition depends on their behaviour toward women: US
On 23 June, ANI news reported that US Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel stated that the Taliban's non-recognition of women's rights could undermine the international legitimacy of Afghanistan. Previously, the UN envoy to Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, stated that the Taliban's restrictions on women make its recognition 'nearly impossible.' Additionally, she stated that the UN had asked its female staff not to report and issued a similar notice to male staff to respect non-discrimination. ("Recognition of Taliban depends on its behaviour towards Afghan women: US", ANI news, 23 June 2023)

Taliban bars female aid staff in southern Kandahar
On 23 June, Reuters reported that Taliban authorities had stopped female aid workers from a refugee project in southern Kandahar. The letters from the Ministry for Refugees stated that the aid agencies had violated orders related to work-related in Spin Boldak, bordering Pakistan. A UN spokesperson stated it was aware of the instruction and was seeking clarity. The Taliban administration has not issued guidelines for female staff in aid groups, as it signalled in January. ("Taliban official letter reinforces bar of female aid staff in southern Kandahar," Reuters, 23 June 2023)

Earthquake victims still struggle in Paktika, Afghanistan
On 23 June, ANI news reported that official figures indicated that over 5,000 families have been residing in caves since the destruction of 7,000 houses due to the earthquake last year. The earthquake hit Paktika previous year, leaving 400 dead and 1700 injured. Paktika Governor Faizullah Jamal stated that more than 2500 houses are in the process of construction, and they are seeking aid from international organizations. Victims claim that despite aid, they lack basic essentials. Physicians in the Gayan district reported a rise in malnutrition and TB infections among children and women. ("Earthquake victims in Afghanistan's Paktika still struggling a year later: Report,ANI news, 23 June 2023)




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