Myanmar Military refuses changes in Peace Agreement
Myanmar's powerful military had said it would not accept any revisions or amendments to a nationwide cease-fire agreement it signed in October 2015 with eight ethnic armed groups in order to accommodate remaining militias that had refused to sign or had been excluded from the pact. The military position was articulated by Vice-Senior General Soe Win, the country's deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces during a meeting on the implementation of the nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) in the capital Naypyidaw. The meeting came as the military, government peace envoys, and representatives from ethnic armed groups prepared for another round of negotiations. "Asking ethnic armed groups to sign the NCA is not asking them to abandon their weapons, but some groups have misunderstood this," Soe Win said. "I want the leaders from the groups that have signed the NCA to explain this point to the people from non-NCA groups who have misunderstood this or who pretend not to understand it."
Tough times ahead in Afghanistan
Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was "under no illusions" about the problems facing Afghanistan. He said "2017 is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the international troops who have stood, and will continue to stand, shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism”. His comments coincided with President Ashraf Ghani accepting the resignations of Defence Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim following the deadly Taleban attack on an army base in Mazar that left over 120 dead. Ghani's office also announced the replacement of four army corps commanders in response to the attack, and defence officials said as many as eight army personnel had been arrested. General John Nicholson, the head of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, said he was "not refuting" reports that Russia was providing support, including arms, to the Taliban. A senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that intelligence showed Russia was providing money and machine guns to the Taliban
Bhutan moves away from BBIN agreement
The government in Bhutan had withdrawn the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement from the agenda for the upcoming Parliament session. The decision to withdraw the agreement was announced at the preliminary agenda setting session of the National Assembly after the joint parliamentary committee met on April 20 to discuss the agreement. A joint parliamentary committee was formed to iron out the differences between the government, the National Council and the opposition on the motor vehicle agreement involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN). With the agreement discussion dropped, the committee would now be dissolved. The committee could not come to an agreement after both the Council and the opposition remained unconvinced. Had the motor vehicle agreement been ratified, it would allow cross-border movement of passengers, personnel and cargo vehicles on authorised routes within the sub-region. The house of review rejected the agreement, saying that implementation of the agreement would adversely affect Bhutan’s environment and sovereignty. After endorsing the agreement, the National Assembly submitted it to the Druk Gyalpo last year for Royal Assent for deliberations in a joint session after the Council voted against ratifying it. As per parliamentary procedure, the bill was supposed to be introduced in the joint session next month. However, even as efforts were on to convince the opposition and Council members, the government was not confident that it had enough votes to endorse the agreement.
Calls for resignations after Afghan army base attack
As Afghan families buried their dead and the country observed a national day of mourning Sunday after at least 100 soldiers were killed or wounded in a Taliban attack on a military base, there were angry calls for ministers and army chiefs to resign. The defence ministry had given a figure of at least 100 soldiers killed or wounded. Kabul had so far ignored media calls for a complete breakdown of casualties from the five-hour attack near the provincial capital of Mazar-i-Sharif. There was growing anger online, with many slamming the government for its inability to counter a series of brazen Taliban assaults, including one on the country's largest military hospital in Kabul in March that left dozens dead. “Mothers lost their sons, sisters lost their brothers and wives lost their husbands. What is the government doing to prevent such atrocities, only condemning? I am so tired, I can't do anything but to cry,” a user called Zabiullah posted on Facebook about the latest tragedy. “The best way to honour them is to fire and punish those who failed to do their jobs and/or cooperated with the enemy. Some leaders must go!” said another user on Twitter. President Ashraf Ghani's spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi told reporters a thorough investigation had been ordered. Many internet commentators called for the resignation of Defence Minister Abdullah Habibi and the commander of the 209th Corps stationed at the base.