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Myanmar junta to establish its own digital currency to boost economy

Myanmar’s military government plans to establish a digital currency to support domestic payments and boost the economy within the year and is assessing how to move forward, according to a top spokesman of the State Administration Council.

“We are undecided whether we should do it as a joint venture with local companies or by the government alone,” said Major General Zaw Min Tun, who is deputy information minister in the junta that toppled civilian government a year ago. “A digital currency will help improve financial activities in Myanmar.”

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The World Bank estimates Myanmar’s economy shrank 18 percent in the fiscal year ended in September 2021, and forecasts growth of just 1 percent through September this year. Myanmar’s economy could have been 30 percent larger without the twin blows of the pandemic and coup, the international lender said in a report last week.

News of the State Administration Council’s proposal comes two months after a group led by supporters of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi recognized Tether as an “official currency” for use in a fund-raising campaign that seeks to topple the military regime. Suu Kyi is currently in jail serving time for a slew of charges.

Central banks around the world have been working for years to develop digital currencies, with some planning to deploy them for retail transactions and others opting to restrict them to interbank use. China, whose digital yuan project is among the most advanced, has been developing it since at least 2014.

“We think the country is not in the best position to be able to pursue something like this, Kim Edwards,” the World Bank’s senior economist for Myanmar, said at a press conference last week. It would need a very good regulatory structure and high capacity within the administration to make it happen, he said.

The director-general of Central Bank of Myanmar’s currency-management department, Win Myint, said “at this point, we are still learning about digital currencies and having discussions. We need to consider both pros and cons.”

Myanmar isn’t the only ailing economy mulling crytpo projects. The Venezuelan National Assembly last month accepted for consideration a bill to establish provisions for digital-currency transactions. Inflation in bolivars, the local currency, has slowed to an annual pace of 53 percent in the past three months, down from well north of 1,000 percent in recent years, according to a Bloomberg index.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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