Myanmar frees political prisoners after ASEAN pressure, then re-arrests some

(Reuters) – Myanmar’s military rulers have freed hundreds of political prisoners in recent days, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s party spokesman and a famous comedian, although several were swiftly re-arrested, local media and a rights group said.

State television announced late on Monday more than 5,600 people arrested or wanted over anti-coup protests would be granted amnesty following a speech from Myanmar’s junta chief saying his government was committed to peace and democracy.

The release was described by some activists as a ploy by the ruling military to try to rebuild its international reputation after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took the rare step of excluding the junta chief from its summit.

Shortly after local media began late on Monday documenting the release of parliamentarians, journalists and others from Yangon’s Insein prison and facilities in Mandalay, Lashio, Meiktila and Myeik, reports followed of re-arrests.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports and Myanmar’s prison department spokesman and junta spokesman were not immediately available for comment.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-profit group which has documented killings and arrests since the coup in February, told Reuters that as of Tuesday evening around 40 people had been detained immediately after their release.

Local media, including Democratic Voice of Burma and Khit Thit Media, also reported several people were re-arrested.

PRESSURE

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which ended a decade of tentative democracy and economic reform.

Security forces have killed more than 1,100 people according to activists and the United Nations, and arrested over 9,000 people including Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s most prominent civilian political figure, according to AAPP.

ASEAN decided to invite a non-political representative to its Oct. 26-28 summit in an unprecedented snub to the military leaders behind the coup against Suu Kyi’s elected government.

U.N. Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews welcomed the release but said it was “outrageous” that they were detained in the first place.

“The junta is releasing political prisoners in Myanmar not because of a change of heart, but because of pressure,” he said on Twitter.

The junta has released prisoners several times since the coup, which triggered a wave of protests that were quelled by the security forces.

“They came to me today and said they will take me home, that’s all,” Monywa Aung Shin, a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, told Democratic Voice of Burma late on Monday on his way home from prison.

Monywa Aung Shin was arrested on February 1 and had spent eight months in prison.

Burmese comedian Zarganar, a well-known critic of Myanmar’s past military governments, was also released late Monday, according to local media reports and a social media post by a close friend.

Photos and videos on social media showed detainees reunited with weeping family members.

Other images showed a succession of buses leaving the rear entrance of the jail, with passengers leaning from windows and waving at crowds gathered outside.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by John Geddie; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Angus MacSwan)

Myanmar currency drops 60% in weeks as economy tanks since February coup

(Reuters) – Myanmar’s currency has lost more than 60% of its value since the beginning of September, driving up food and fuel prices in an economy that has tanked since a military coup eight months ago.

Many gold shops and money exchanges closed on Wednesday due to the turmoil, while the kyat’s dive trended on social media with comments ranging from stark warnings to efforts to find some humor as yet another crisis hits the strife-torn nation.

“This will rattle the generals as they are quite obsessed with the kyat rate as a broader barometer of the economy, and therefore a reflection on them,” Richard Horsey, a Myanmar expert at the International Crisis Group, said.

In August, the Central Bank of Myanmar tried tethering the kyat 0.8% either side of its reference rate against the dollar, but gave up on Sept. 10 as pressure on the exchange rate mounted.

The shortage of dollars has become so bad that some money changers have pulled down their shutters.

“Due to the currency price instability at the moment…all Northern Breeze Exchange Service branches are temporarily closed,” the money changer said on Facebook.

Those still operating were quoting a rate of 2,700 kyat per dollar on Tuesday, compared to 1,695 on Sept. 1 and 1,395 back on Feb. 1 when the military overthrew a democratically elected government led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

WORLD BANK WARNS ECONOMY TO SLUMP 18%

The World Bank predicted on Monday the economy would slump 18% this year and said Myanmar would see the biggest contraction in employment in the region and the number of poor would rise.

The increasing economic pressures come amid signs of an upsurge in bloodshed, as armed militias have become bolder in clashes with the army after months of protests and strikes by opponents of the junta.

“The worse the political situation is, the worse the currency rate will be,” said a senior executive at a Myanmar bank, who declined to be identified.

Myanmar is also struggling to deal with a second wave of coronavirus infections that started in June with the response by authorities crippled after many health workers joined protests. Reported cases have comes off their highs though the true extent of the outbreak remains unclear.

In the immediate months after the Feb. 1 coup, many people queued up to withdraw savings from banks and some bought gold, but a jewelry merchant in Yangon said many desperate people were now trying to sell their gold.

The central bank gave no reason to why it abandoned its managed float strategy earlier this month, but analysts believe its foreign currency reserves must be seriously depleted.

Central bank officials did not answer calls seeking comment, but World Bank data shows it had just $7.67 billion in reserves at the end of 2020.

After coming off its managed float, the central bank still spent $65 million, buying kyat at a rate of 1,750 to 1,755 per dollar between Sept. 13-27.

The bank executive said the central bank’s efforts had limited impact in a currency market shorn of confidence.

The economic crisis has driven up the price of staples, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said this week that around three million people now require humanitarian assistance in Myanmar, up from one million before the coup.

In a country where gross domestic product per capita was just $1,400 last year, a 48-kg bag of rice now costs 48,000 kyat, or around $18, up nearly 40% since the coup, while gasoline prices have nearly doubled to 1,445 kyat per liter.

“If you have money, you buy gold, you buy dollars, you buy (Thai) baht. If you do not have money, you will starve,” said Facebook user Win Myint in a post.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick Macfie)

Myanmar junta leader aims to solidify grip on power -U.N

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. special envoy on Myanmar said on Tuesday the country’s military leader appears determined to solidify his grip on power following a February coup and ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party could soon be disbanded.

Christine Schraner Burgener cited military ruler Min Aung Hlaing’s announcement this month that he was now prime minister in a newly formed caretaker government and also a formal annulment of the results of a November election, which was won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).

“I fear that we will soon hear also that the NLD party could be disbanded. This is an attempt to promote legitimacy against lack of international action taken,” Schraner Burgener told reporters. “I have to make clear that the U.N. does not recognize governments, so it’s up to the member states.”

She said unless U.N. member states act, Myanmar’s U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun – an opponent of the junta – remains the country’s legitimate envoy at the world body in New York and Suu Kyi and Myanmar President Win Myint are the country’s leaders.

The junta, which argues that it is not a military government and came about through a constitutional transfer of power, has said it wants to appoint Aung Thurein – a member of Myanmar’s military from 1995 to 2021 – to be the U.N. ambassador.

U.N. credentials are initially considered by a nine-member committee appointed at the beginning of each annual session of the 193-member General Assembly, which starts in September.

Schraner Burgener stressed that it was up to member states to decide who should represent Myanmar, but she described it as a “crucial moment”.

“I’m still convinced that this was a coup, which was not yet successfully completed,” she said. “It was an unlawful act and we have still a legitimate government from the NLD.”

The United Nations has previously had to address competing claims for representation, some culminating with a vote in the General Assembly. The credentials committee is also able to defer a decision and leave a seat empty.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Philippa Fletcher)

U.S. gives Myanmar $50 million in aid as humanitarian crisis worsens

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Tuesday it was giving Myanmar more than $50 million in aid as surging COVID-19 infections worsened a humanitarian crisis in the Southeast Asian country already reeling after generals overthrew a democratically elected government earlier this year.

It is also providing Thailand with $5 million to cope with novel coronavirus, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced the funding during a visit to Thailand, he added.

In Myanmar, the U.S. funding will aid “those forced to flee violence and persecution” as well as help groups provide health care services in addition to essentials such as food, shelter and water, the State Department said.

“This funding comes at a critical point of rising humanitarian needs and will help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the lives of the people of both Thailand and Burma,” Price said. “In the wake of the February 1 coup, people from Burma continue to flee their homes due to ongoing violence.”

Six months after the army seized power, Myanmar’s economy has collapsed and its health system has buckled as coronavirus cases surged.

COVID-19 cases peaked in Myanmar last month, with 3,824 new daily infections now reported on average, Reuters data show. It has seen 333,127 infections and 12,014 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

In Thailand, the average number of new COVID-19 infections are at their peak, with more than 20,400 cases reported daily, according to Reuters data.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Some 40 bodies found in Myanmar jungle after army crackdown -U.N. envoy

A Myanmar soldier stands near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine state, Myanmar September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

(Reuters) -A Myanmar militia force fighting the army in a central part of the country and residents have found at least 40 bodies in jungle areas in recent weeks, including some showing signs of torture, said a militia member and Myanmar’s U.N. envoy.

Since the military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, hundreds of people have been killed as the army violently quelled protests, and in clashes between soldiers and often hastily assembled, lightly armed local militias.

The bodies were found in several different locations around Kani, a town in the Sagaing area, which has seen fierce fighting in recent months between the army and the militia groups set up by opponents of military rule.

Reuters could not independently verify the claims and a spokesman for the military did not answer calls seeking comment.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Myanmar’s U.N. envoy Kyaw Moe Tun – who represents the elected civilian government – said a total of 40 bodies were found and described three different incidents during July in Kani.

Kyaw Moe Tun described the incidents as “clearly amounting to crimes against humanity,” calling on the U.N. Security Council and international community to impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar’s military.

“There is no sign of easing atrocities, killing, arrest committed by the military,” he wrote. “We demand for urgent humanitarian intervention from the international community before it is too late.”

Fighting in the Sagaing area has now mainly stopped and it was unclear if more bodies would be found, said a member of the Kani militia, who asked not to be identified.

“Most villagers in the remote area had fled to the nearby town,” he said, accusing the military and a rival pro-junta militia of carrying out reprisal killings and looting.

The militia member also put the total number of bodies so far at around 40, found on several occasions.

A military information newsletter dated July 30 said security forces had been attacked by around 100 “terrorists” with small arms near Zeepindwin village in Kani. It said soldiers had retaliated and nine bodies had been retrieved, along with hunting rifles, homemade mines and a grenade.

Security forces have killed at least 946 people since the coup, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a Thai-based activist group. The military has disputed the tally and also said many members of the security forces have been killed.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Kim Coghill and Jonathan Oatis)

Britain warns COVID-19 could infect half Myanmar in next two weeks

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Britain’s U.N. ambassador warned on Thursday that half of Myanmar’s 54 million people could be infected with COVID-19 in the next two weeks as Myanmar’s envoy called for U.N. monitors to ensure an effective delivery of vaccines.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the military ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, with protests and fighting between the army and newly formed militias. The United States, Britain and others have imposed sanctions on the military rulers over the coup and repression of pro-democracy protests in which hundreds have been killed.

“The coup has resulted in a near total collapse of the healthcare system, and health care workers are being attacked and arrested,” British U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward told an informal Security Council discussion on Myanmar.

“The virus is spreading through the population, very fast indeed. By some estimates, in the next two weeks, half of the population of Myanmar could be infected with COVID,” she said.

Myanmar state media reported on Wednesday that the military ruler is looking for greater cooperation with other countries to contain the coronavirus.

Infections in the Southeast Asian country have surged since June, with 4,980 cases and 365 deaths reported on Wednesday, according to health ministry data cited in media. Medics and funeral services put the toll much higher.

“In order to have smooth and effective COVID vaccination and providing humanitarian assistance, close-monitoring by the international community is essential,” Myanmar’s U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who speaks for the elected civilian government, told the Security Council discussion.

“As such, we would like to request the U.N. in particular the Security Council to urgently establish a U.N.-led monitoring mechanism for effective COVID vaccination and smooth delivery of humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Myanmar recently received two million more Chinese vaccines, but it was believed to have only vaccinated about 3.2% of its population, according to a Reuters tracker.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)

Isolated Myanmar calls for international help as COVID cases surge

(Reuters) -Myanmar’s military ruler is looking for greater cooperation with the international community to contain the coronavirus, state media reported on Wednesday, as the Southeast Asian country struggles with a surging wave of infections.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing called in a speech for more cooperation on prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19, including with fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and “friendly countries,” the Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the military ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, with regular protests and fighting between the army and newly formed militias. Various countries including the United States and Britain have imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military rulers over the coup and the repression of pro-democracy protests in which hundreds have been killed.

The junta leader said vaccinations needed to be increased, through both donated doses and by developing domestic production, aided by Russia, the newspaper said, adding Myanmar would seek the release of funds from an ASEAN COVID-19 fund.

Myanmar recently received two million more Chinese vaccines, but it was believed to have only vaccinated about 3.2% of its population, according to a Reuters tracker. A drive to vaccinate some 40,000 inmates in densely packed prisons, which have seen major virus outbreaks recently, started on Wednesday, state-run MRTV reported.

The military has appeared wary of outside help in past disasters, forcing Myanmar’s people to help each other, though a previous junta did allow in aid via ASEAN after a devastating cyclone in 2008.

There have been desperate efforts by people to find oxygen in many parts of the country. The Myanmar Now news portal, citing witnesses, reported that at least eight people died in a Yangon hospital at the weekend after a piped oxygen system failed.

Reuters could not independently confirm the report and the North Okkalapa General Hospital and a health ministry spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Infections in Myanmar have surged since June, with 4,980 cases and 365 deaths reported on Wednesday, according to health ministry data cited in media. Medics and funeral services put the toll much higher.

Last week, prisoners in Yangon staged a protest over what activists said was a major COVID-19 outbreak in the colonial-era Insein jail, where many pro-democracy protesters are being held.

Vaccinations began at Insein and a prison in the capital Naypyitaw on Wednesday and would be extended to inmates countrywide, MRTV reported, citing the prisons department.

Efforts to tackle the outbreak have been further hampered by some of the worst flooding in years in eastern Myanmar.

Despite Min Aung Hlaing agreeing to an ASEAN peace plan reached in April, the military has shown little sign of following through on it and has instead reiterated its own, entirely different plan to restore order and democracy.

The military justified its coup by accusing Suu Kyi’s party of manipulating votes in a November general election to secure a landslide victory. The electoral commission at the time and outside observers rejected the complaints.

But in a further sign of the junta’s tightening grip on power, the military-appointed election commission this week officially annulled the November results, saying the vote was not in line with the constitution and electoral laws, and was not “free and fair,” MRTV reported.

(Reporting by Reuters StaffWriting by Ed Davies and John Geddie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)

U.N. says 230,000 displaced by Myanmar fighting

(Reuters) – An estimated 230,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Myanmar and need assistance, the United Nations said on Thursday, as a major armed ethnic group expressed concern about military force, civilian deaths and a widening of the conflict.

Myanmar has been in crisis since a Feb. 1 coup ousted an elected government, prompting nationwide anger that has led to protests, killings and bombings, and battles on several fronts between troops and newly formed civilian armies.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said relief operations were ongoing but were being hindered by armed clashes, violence and insecurity in the country.

It said 177,000 people were displaced in Karen state bordering Thailand, 103,000 in the past month, while more than 20,000 people were sheltering at 100 displacement areas after fighting between People’s Defense Forces and the army in Chin State bordering India.

Several thousand people had fled fighting in northern Kachin and Shan States, regions with established ethnic minority armies with a long history of hostilities with the military.

The Karen National Union (KNU), one of Myanmar’s oldest ethnic minority groups, said it was worried about the military’s excessive use of force and the loss of innocent civilian lives as fighting intensifies all over the country.

“The KNU will continue to fight against military dictatorship and provide as much protection as possible to people and unarmed civilians,” it said in a statement.

The military says it seized power to protect democracy because its complaints of fraud in a November election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party were ignored.

PROTESTS

Anti-junta protests took place in Kachin State, Dawei, Sagaing Region and the commercial capital Yangon on Thursday, with demonstrators carrying banners and making three-finger gestures of defiance.

Some showed support for those resisting military rule in Mandalay, the second-biggest city, where a firefight took place between the army and a newly formed guerrilla group on Tuesday, the first sign of armed clashes in a major urban center since the coup.

The military-owned Myawaddy Television said four members of the militia were arrested on Thursday, describing them as “terrorists”.

At least 877 people have been killed by security forces and more than 6,000 arrested since the coup, according to the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group which the junta has declared an illegal organization.

A diplomatic effort by Southeast Asian countries to halt the violence and initiate dialogue between all sides has stalled and the generals say they will stick to their plan of restoring order and holding elections in two years.

In its nightly news bulletin, state-run MRTV reported on the visit of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to Russia, where a military university named him an honorary professor.

Unlike most global powers, Russia has embraced the junta and the country has long been a key source of Myanmar’s weaponry. His visit comes amid international pressure on countries not to sell arms to the military or do business with its vast network of companies.

State media on Thursday carried excerpts from a speech in Russia by Min Aung Hlaing in which he said it was necessary for countries to avoid encroaching on another country’s sovereignty.

“Myanmar is striving for restoring political peace and stability,” it quoted him saying. “The current government is focusing on the reappearance of honesty over democracy.”

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Giles Elgood)

Myanmar anti-junta militia vow to take on army in a major city

(Reuters) – Myanmar security forces backed by armored vehicles clashed on Tuesday with a newly formed militia group in the second-biggest city of Mandalay resulting in at least two casualties, according to members of the group and media reports.

Since the army seized power on Feb. 1 and removed the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, the security forces have put down protests opposing military rule. In response, groups of opponents of the coup known as people’s defense forces have sprung up across Myanmar.

Up to now, fighting involving lightly armed militias has been mainly confined to small towns and rural areas, but a group claiming to be Mandalay’s new People’s Defense Force said its members responded after the army raided one of its bases.

“The fight has started. There will be more fights,” a member of the militia identified as Captain Tun Tauk Naing said by telephone.

The sound of repeated gun fire could be heard in video footage taken by a resident of the area.

About 20 soldiers had carried out the raid on the group sparking a gun fight with the military which deployed three armored cars to the area, Myanmar Now reported.

Another official from the militia group told the Mizzima news portal that six of its members had been arrested and two soldiers had been killed.

A spokesman for the junta did not answer calls seeking comment.

The army-owned Myawaddy Television (MWD), in a report on its Telegram message channel, said security forces had raided a house and “armed terrorists” had fought back with small weapons and bombs.

It said four “terrorists” had been killed and eight arrested while some security forces were seriously hurt.

Myanmar’s military rulers have branded a shadow National Unity Government opposing the junta a terrorist group and blamed it for bombings, arson and killings.

In earlier incidents in other parts of Myanmar, the army has responded with artillery and air strikes after militia groups launched attacks on soldiers, with casualties on both sides and tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes.

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday called for a stop to the flow of arms to Myanmar and urged the military to respect the results of a November election and release political detainees, including Suu Kyi.

On Saturday, Myanmar’s foreign ministry released a statement rejecting the U.N. resolution, which it said was “based on one-sided sweeping allegations and false assumptions”.

Security forces have killed at least 873 protesters since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group. The junta disputes that figure.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi goes on trial

(Reuters) -Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi went on trial on Monday, appearing unwell as the first witnesses took the stand in cases against her of illegally possessing walkie-talkie radios and breaking coronavirus protocols, her lawyer said.

Suu Kyi, 75, faces a slew of charges since being overthrown by the army in a Feb. 1 coup that cut short a decade of tentative democratic reforms and has plunged the Southeast Asian country into chaos.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi seemed not very well but throughout the hearing she seemed quite interested and paid keen attention,” the head of her legal team, Khin Maung Zaw, said in a statement after the day of hearings.

Suu Kyi’s supporters say the charges are politically motivated and designed to end the political life of a woman who championed democracy for decades under previous military administrations, much of the time under house arrest.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate faced three cases on Monday at the specially built court in the capital Naypyidaw, where she had already appeared at preliminary hearings.

Two of Monday’s cases were linked to the possession of the radios and one under the Natural Disaster Management Law for breaching coronavirus regulations while campaigning for the election she won last November.

She also faces charges of incitement – with hearings set for Tuesday – and more serious charges of violating the Official Secrets Act and under the Anti-Corruption Law.

Former President Win Myint also faces charges of violating the coronavirus measures. Police Major Myint Naing took the stand against him and Suu Kyi. Police Major Kyi Lin then testified in the cases over the radios.

Monday’s hearings lasted more than five hours.

Her legal team have denied any wrongdoing by Suu Kyi and her chief lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, called the most recent corruption charges “absurd”.

‘BOGUS, AND POLITICALLY MOTIVATED’

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch, said in a statement the charges Suu Kyi faced “are bogus, and politically motivated” and “should be dropped, resulting in her immediate and unconditional release”.

The army says it took power by force because Suu Kyi’s party won the election through fraud, an accusation rejected by the previous election commission and international monitors.

Myanmar’s security forces have killed at least 862 people during their crackdown on protests since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group, though the junta disputes the number.

Pro-democracy supporters took to the streets of the main city of Yangon on Monday, some chanting “revolutionary war, we participate,” according to social media posts.

Some activists said they planned to stage a series of strikes and protests on Monday to coincide with the birthday of Che Guevara, a Latin American revolutionary who became an international icon after his death.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Friday that violence was intensifying and condemned the army’s “outrageous” use of heavy weapons.

Bachelet said the junta had shown no willingness to implement a five-point consensus it agreed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in April to halt violence and start dialogue with its opponents.

In a press release, Myanmar’s junta-led ministry of foreign affairs rejected Bachelet’s statement, questioning the accuracy and impartiality of the report.

“The report neither mentioned nor condemned the acts of sabotage and terrorism committed by the unlawful associations and terrorist groups as well as the sufferings and deaths of the security forces,” it said.

The junta has branded a rival National Unity Government set up by supporters of Suu Kyi as a terrorist group and blamed it for bombings, arson and killings.

Myanmar’s junta-controlled media on Monday accused an ethnic armed group of killing 25 construction workers in the east of the country after abducting a group of 47 people last month.

Reuters was unable to reach the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) for comment on the accusation. The junta spokesman did not answer calls to seek further comment.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies and Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Alex Richardson)