(Reuters) – Security forces in Myanmar opened fire to disperse protesters at a power plant on Sunday and armoured vehicles rolled into major cities as the new army rulers faced a ninth day of anti-coup demonstrations that saw hundreds of thousands on the streets.
Soldiers were deployed to power plants in the northern state of Kachin, leading to a confrontation with demonstrators, some of who said they believed the army intended to cut off the electricity.
The security forces fired to disperse protesters outside one plant in Kachin’s state capital Myitkyina, footage broadcast live on Facebook showed, although it was not clear if they were using rubber bullets or live fire.
As evening fell, armoured vehicles appeared in the commercial capital of Yangon, Myitkyina and Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, live footage broadcast online by local media showed, the first large-scale rollout of such vehicles across the country since the Feb. 1 coup.
The government and army could not be reached for comment.
The U.S embassy in Myanmar urged American citizens to “shelter in place”, citing reports of the military movements in Yangon. It also warned there was a possibility of a telecoms interruptions overnight between 1:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.
As well as the mass protests across Myanmar, the country’s military rulers were faced with a strike by government workers, part of a civil disobedience movement to protest against the coup that deposed the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Trains in parts of the country stopped running after staff refused to go to work, local media reported, while the military deployed soldiers to power plants where they were confronted by angry crowds.
The junta ordered civil servants to go back to work, threatening action. The army has been carrying out nightly mass arrests and on Saturday gave itself sweeping powers to detain people and search private property.
But hundreds of railway workers joined demonstrations in Yangon on Sunday, even as police went to their housing compound on the outskirts of the city to order them back to work. The police were forced to leave after angry crowds gathered, according to a live broadcast by Myanmar Now.
Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the work of many government departments had effectively ground to a halt.
“This has the potential to also affect vital functions – the military can replace engineers and doctors, but not power grid controllers and central bankers,” he said.
PROTESTS ACROSS NATION
Hundreds of thousands of people protested across the nation after a fearful night as residents formed patrols and the army rolled back laws protecting freedoms.
Engineering students marched through downtown Yangon, the biggest city, wearing white and carrying placards demanding the release of ousted leader Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup and charged with importing walkie-talkies.
A fleet of highway buses rolled slowly through the city with horns blaring, part of the biggest street protests in more than a decade.
A convoy of motorbikes and cars drove through the capital Naypyitaw. In the southeastern coastal town of Dawei, a band played drums as crowds marched under the hot sun. In Waimaw, in Kachin state, crowds carried flags and sang revolutionary songs.
Many of the protesters nationwide held up images of Suu Kyi.
Her detention is due to expire on Monday. Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, could not be reached for comment on what was set to happen.
More than 384 people have been detained since the coup, the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said, in a wave of mostly nightly arrests.
“While the international community is condemning the coup, Min Aung Hlaing is using every tool he has to instigate fears and instabilities,” activist Wai Hnin Pwint Thon from the UK-based rights group Burma Campaign UK said on Twitter, referring to the military ruler.
‘STOP KIDNAPPING PEOPLE’
Residents banded together late on Saturday to patrol streets in Yangon and the country’s second-largest city Mandalay, fearing arrest raids as well as common crime.
Worries about crime rose after the junta announced on Friday it would free 23,000 prisoners, saying the move was consistent with “establishing a new democratic state with peace, development and discipline”.
Tin Myint, a Yangon resident, was among the crowds who detained a group of four people suspected of carrying out an attack in the neighbourhood.
“We think the military intends to cause violence with these criminals by infiltrating them into peaceful protests,” he said.
He cited pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988, when the military was widely accused of releasing criminals into the population to stage attacks, later citing the unrest as a justification for extending their own power.
Also late on Saturday, the army reinstated a law requiring people to report overnight visitors to their homes, allowed security forces to detain suspects and search private property without court approval, and ordered the arrest of well-known backers of mass protests.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in a November election that the army said was tainted with fraud – an accusation dismissed by the electoral commission.
Writing by Poppy McPherson; Editing by Frances Kerry and Pravin Char
Japan’s Mizuho suffers problems at ATMs, preventing use of some services
Japan’s Mizuho Bank is suffering problems at its ATMs, preventing customers from accessing some services, the lender said on its website on Sunday.
FILE PHOTO: Mizuho Bank’s signboard is pictured in Tokyo, Japan, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Mizuho Bank is suffering problems at its ATMs, preventing customers from accessing some services, the lender said on its website on Sunday.
Customers are unable to make withdrawals at some machines, national broadcaster NHK reported.
ATMs in Tokyo are among those affected, a spokeswoman said. She declined to say which services were affected as the lender is still investigating the matter.
The core banking unit of Mizuho Financial Group said that it would update customers on its website.
Japan’s third-largest lender by assets has a history of system troubles spanning more than a decade. It had a costly “fat finger” keyboard error at its securities arm in 2005 and suffered a breakdown at its ATMs after Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake, unlike its rivals.
Reporting by Kevin Buckland and Takashi Umekawa; Editing by William Mallard
U.S. urban office market, stung by pandemic, hopes tech firms drive comeback
The growing footprint in New York of major tech companies like Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google has given property owners and brokers hope that once the coronavirus has been conquered demand for office space will quickly return to pre-pandemic levels.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The growing footprint in New York of major tech companies like Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google has given property owners and brokers hope that once the coronavirus has been conquered demand for office space will quickly return to pre-pandemic levels.
FILE PHOTO: The Met Life Tower (L) and Chrysler Building in Manhattan’s midtown east skyline are seen out the windows from the 54th floor of the 77-story One Vanderbilt office tower, in midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar
But the popularity of working from home and the exodus of people from expensive coastal cities will likely weigh on demand and change workspace requirements, leaving office buildings that do not adjust less valuable.
Big Tech’s expanding real estate clout already hides declining values for lower-quality properties.
Prices for premier workspace in U.S. gateway cities have held or even risen during the pandemic in a flight to quality. But leasing volumes and number of buildings sold have plummeted, with valuations at the lower end falling, data shows.
The pandemic has left a massive question mark hanging over the office sector, said Joe Gorin, head of U.S. real estate management and value-added investing at Barings in New York.
“I know how people are going to use the hotel coming out of the pandemic. How are people going to use office buildings?” he asked. “There’s going to be some pain because we’re going to have to go through a restructuring of how people use space.”
Companies need to make the office more compelling and allow busy work to be done at home, which means workspace demand might not grow, Gorin said. Buildings that cannot provide a great environment will become obsolete.
“If you can own or create the right stuff, it’s going to be valuable,” he said. “Office can become more important and shrink as much as it can expand.”
Limited data suggests buildings classified below the top Class A industry designation already have suffered a drop in value during the pandemic and could be poised for a further slide if a decline in demand persists.
The amount of available office space has soared as tech companies have dumped excessive workspace, a sign of uncertainty among management about a company’s future workspace needs.
Institutional investors have put transaction decisions on hold, with the sale of buildings in Manhattan valued at more than $100 million falling more than half to just 32 last year, research by brokerage Newmark Group Inc shows, using Real Capital Analytics data.
Leasing activity has picked up after the New Year but is still far below pre-pandemic levels.
The office sector is the hardest in commercial real estate to assess because leases generally are long-term commitments, said Sam Isaacson, president of Walker & Dunlop Investment Partners in Denver.
“Eventually the cash flow streams have to match up with the asset value appreciation and when that doesn’t occur, that’s when we’re going to see some real pain,” Isaacson said.
WAITING TO MEET THE BOSS
The number of virtual tours brokers conducted with clients fell 61% in December from a year earlier in seven U.S. gateway cities, according to data from View The Space Inc. Tours declined 74% in New York, the biggest drop outside of an 80% plunge in Seattle, the property technology firm said.
A reversal of Seattle’s early recovery from the pandemic may suggest a significant embrace of more remote work in the city over the long-term, VTS said in the report.
“Our data is pointing to the fact tech companies are still really comfortable working from home and they’re probably going to be the last ones to return to the office,” said Ryan Masiello, co-founder and chief strategy officer at VTS.
Of the 115 people VTS has hired since March, Masiello has met none of them because they are all working remotely, he said.
Tech companies led other industries for the second straight year in Manhattan leasing activity, brokerage CBRE Group Inc said in January. A decline in the technology sector’s real estate footprint would be significant for a property market looking to ride the growing digital economy.
Brokers point to Amazon’s $978 million purchase of the Lord & Taylor building on Fifth Avenue last year and Facebook’s leasing of the Farley Building across from Madison Square Garden, as prime examples for Manhattan’s real estate prospects.
The Amazon deal was valued at $1,466 a square foot, more than 10% above last year’s top-quartile average price, while Google’s billion-dollar deals in Chelsea and Hudson Square have redefined swaths of the city’s Far West Side.
Scott Rechler, chief executive and chairman of closely held RXR Realty, one of the largest office building owners in New York, sees a growing disparity between high- and lower-quality properties.
Companies need to re-imagine the workspace and how they engage with employees who expect properties to be well-located, energetic and have health and wellness centers, he said.
“For buildings that can’t do that – they’re not in the right location, they’re older, they’re obsolete – it could be a meaningful free-fall in value,” Rechler said.
Graphic-Tenant interest in Manhattan office space by category :
Reporting by Herbert Lash in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley and Matthew Lewis
India approves $1 billion plan to boost IT product exports
India on Wednesday approved a 73.5 billion rupee ($1.02 billion) plan to boost local manufacturing and exports of IT products such as laptops, tablets, personal computers and servers, the technology minister said.
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India on Wednesday approved a 73.5 billion rupee ($1.02 billion) plan to boost local manufacturing and exports of IT products such as laptops, tablets, personal computers and servers, the technology minister said.
The production-linked incentive (PLI) plan will help India export IT goods worth 2.45 trillion rupees, minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told a news conference.
It provides manufacturers cash-backs of between 1% and 4% of additional sales of locally made goods over four years, with 2019-2020 as the base year.
“The focus of the scheme is to get global champions to India and to make national champions out of local manufacturers,” Prasad said, adding that the plan could create roughly 180,000 jobs.
The PLI plan is also likely to help U.S. tech giant Apple Inc assemble some of its iPad tablets in India, Reuters previously reported.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy push in the electronics sector has prompted Apple suppliers Foxconn and Wistron to expand in India, and driven Pegatron to set up base there.
The three Taiwan companies have committed to invest roughly $900 million to make iPhones in India as part of a $6.7 billion PLI plan launched by the government last year.
Modi’s strategy, coupled with India’s huge market, have also helped turned the country into the world’s second-biggest mobile maker after China.
New Delhi now wants to replicate the success of smartphone manufacturing with other electronics in a bid to cut imports.
The federal cabinet last week approved a $1.68 billion plan to promote local manufacturing and export of telecoms and networking gear.
Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal, editing by Louise Heavens and Nick Macfie
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