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Lions name Warren Gatland as coach for 2021 SA tour

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Gatland will relinquish his role as Wales boss after the World Cup and will then start his official Lions duties in August 2020.

“I’m hugely honoured and delighted to lead the Lions again,” said Gatland. “It is exciting and a great challenge to coach the best players from the four Home Nations.”


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VW Recalls 679K Cars With Faulty Micro Switch That ‘May Roll Away’

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“Volkswagen issued a recall Friday of 679,000 vehicles for risk that they may roll away,” reports the New York Daily News:

Models recalled include certain 2011 through 2019 Beetles and Beetle convertibles, GTIs, Golfs, Golf SportWagens and Jettas that have automatic transmissions, manual hand brakes and keyless entry.

“In affected vehicles, a micro switch which indicates the position of the shift lever may fail, allowing the key to be removed from the ignition switch without the shift lever being in the in the “P” Park position,” a spokesperson for the German automaker told the Daily News in an email. “If the ignition key is removed without the shift lever being in the “P” Park position, there is a risk the vehicle may roll away, resulting in a crash.”

The spokesperson added that the company “is not aware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities related to this recall.”

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‘We are hostages’: Two years on, Rohingya still in Myanmar trapped by new war

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YANGON (Reuters) – When Myanmar officials toured refugee camps in Bangladesh last month, inviting Rohingya Muslims who fled the country to return, they brought with them pamphlets adorned with cartoons showing hijab-wearing women passing through checkpoints and happily grasping identity cards.

Muslim vendors sell fish in the market of Maungdaw, Rakhine July 9, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang

They did not mention the new war being waged at home.

While the majority of Rohingya residents of northwestern Myanmar were driven out by a military campaign that began in August 2017, a scattered community of some 200,000 remained behind in Rakhine state, in villages that were spared the violence. Two years on, many of them are now trapped by a new conflict.

Since late last year, government troops have been battling the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group that recruits from the mostly Buddhist Rakhine, who make up the majority in the region.

The worsening fighting has left Rohingya caught in the middle and facing threats from both sides, a dozen villagers told Reuters, making returns ever more unlikely.

“We are stuck in the middle of their fight,” said Tin Shwe, a villager from Buthidaung township, where clashes have been intense. “There has been no improvement of our lives over the past two years, only degradation. Only trouble.”

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine to Bangladesh after Myanmar’s armed forces launched a crackdown following attacks on security posts on Aug. 25, 2017.

United Nations’ investigators have said the army campaign included mass killings and gang-rapes and was carried out with “genocidal intent”. The military denies almost all the allegations made by refugees during what it said was a legitimate counterterrorism operation.

On Thursday, a third attempt to begin the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya cleared by the authorities to return to Myanmar failed when the refugees refused to go back.

Min Thein, director of Myanmar’s social welfare ministry, said security measurements were in place for returning refugees. “The Myanmar police force will guard them,” he said.

A military spokesman did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

INFORMATION BLACKOUT

Authorities have shut northern Rakhine off from journalists and most humanitarian agencies, and imposed an internet blackout since late June, citing the need to avert unrest.

The restrictions make information difficult to verify, but Reuters spoke to a dozen Rohingya still in central and northern Rakhine and refugees in Bangladesh with relatives who stayed behind.

Some described landmine blasts and shells falling in Muslim villages, as well as intimidation from combatants on both sides of the conflict.

Two told Reuters they would flee to Bangladesh if they could, but routes out of the country used during the previous exodus have been rendered unsafe by the violence.

More than 1,000 Rohingya have arrived in the camps in Bangladesh since January, according to the United Nations refugee agency, a figure that also includes arrivals from India, which has in recent months been cracking down on what it says are illegal Rohingya immigrants.

Those from Myanmar cited violence linked to fighting between Arakan Army insurgents and the military as well as poor living conditions, spokeswoman Louise Donovan said.

Many refugees living in the crowded Bangladesh camps say they want to return home, but under specific conditions, including guarantees of citizenship and security and improvements in the lives of Rohingya still in Myanmar.

Denigrated as illegal immigrants, although many can trace their ancestry in Myanmar back centuries, the Rohingya there are mostly denied citizenship and subject to tight restrictions on movement that keep them confined to camps and villages.

CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE

The Arakan Army has been fighting for greater autonomy for Rakhine, a region that was an independent kingdom for centuries.

In its calls for an armed “revolution”, the group draws on deep-seated historical resentment felt by some Rakhines towards the ethnic Bamar majority that dominates the central government.

Rohingya still living in the area say they have been caught in the middle of the conflict.

Government troops battling the insurgents have set up camp in Muslim villages in parts of northern Rakhine, five villagers told Reuters. Soldiers ask Muslim residents to bring them food and firewood, or to show them the roads, villagers said, putting them in danger of retribution from the Arakan Army.

“If they say they will stay, we have to accept it,” said one Rohingya living in Rathedaung township, who like others asked not to be named for safety reasons.

Another in Buthidaung township said soldiers had asked him to guide troops, as he was a proficient Burmese speaker. Some of the Muslim population, particularly from poorer communities, speak only the Rohingya dialect.

Afterwards, the villager said, he got a call from an unknown number, warning that anyone who helped the military would face consequences. He said the speaker told him: “We will kill you. We will burn your village.”

Two Rohingya were shot dead in Rathedaung township’s Sin Khone Taing village in early August after escorting troops, five locals told Reuters. Officials from the village could not be reached for comment.

“We are hostages, stuck between two groups,” said one Muslim who fled the village. “We are not safe. It has been three times already that we have fled from the village since June … The government cannot control this area.”

Arakan Army spokesman Khine Thu Ka denied the organization had killed civilians, blaming Myanmar forces for the deaths.

“We don’t kill our civilians like that,” he said. “As we heard, the Burmese military took them and eliminated like them … There are too many cases like that.”

AID SHORTAGES

Many Rohingya in Myanmar have been reliant on international non-profit organizations for medical care and deliveries of food since a previous bout of violence in 2012 that forced many into camps.

Since the start of the Arakan Army conflict, little has been getting through.

In Rathedaung’s Sin Khone Taing village, Rohingya said they last received a delivery of food in May. “People are living off rice porridge,” said one villager.

Kyaw Win, executive director of Burma Human Rights Network, which monitors the Rohingya crisis, said it had received reports of landmines and improvised explosive devices placed on the roads near the exits of Rohingya villages.

In a joint statement last week, 61 NGOs including Save the Children and Oxfam said there had been “no meaningful progress on freedom of movement or human rights” for the Rohingya still in Myanmar, while the recent “upsurge in violence has worsened the already precarious humanitarian situation in central and northern Rakhine state”.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Across the border, in the sprawling Bangladesh camps, refugees keep in touch with their relatives in Myanmar via phone, now that the internet connection has been cut. Nobody is urging them to come home.

“All of the people want to flee as there is no security,” Tin Shwe said. “The government cannot help the few Rohingya left behind. So how could anyone believe they could help hundreds of thousands?”

(This story corrects typo in 34th paragraph, replacing “improved” with “improvised”)

Reporting by Poppy McPherson and Thu Thu Aung; Editing by Alex Richardson

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South Korea begins military drills around disputed island amid feud with Japan

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FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows a part of the group of islets known in South Korea as Dokdo and in Japan as Takeshima in the Sea of Japan, October 20, 2007. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s military will conduct two days of drills around a tiny island also claimed by Japan, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday, just days after Seoul decided to scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo amid worsening relations.

Tokyo and Seoul have long been at loggerheads over the sovereignty of the group of islets called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean, which lie about halfway between the East Asian neighbors in the Sea of Japan, which Seoul refers to as the East Sea.

The military drills were scheduled to begin on Sunday, Yonhap reported, and could exacerbate tensions between the two neighbors.

South Koreas on Thursday had announced the scrapping of the intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, drawing a swift protest from Tokyo and deepening a decades-old dispute over history that has hit trade and undercut security cooperation over North Korea.

Relations between South Korea and Japan began to deteriorate late last year following a diplomatic row over compensation for wartime forced laborers during Japan’s occupation of Korea.

They soured further when Japan tightened its curbs on exports of high-tech materials needed by South Korea’s chip industry, and again this month when Tokyo said it would remove South Korea’s fast-track export status.

The disputed islands have long been one of the most sensitive areas of contention for South Korea and Japan. Recently, South Korea and Japan traded words over the way the islands were described on a website for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

The islands were at the center of a more serious clash in July, when both South Korea and Japan responded to what they saw as a violation of their air space near the islands by a Russian military plane.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler

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