Friday, July 4, 2008

Mongolia State of Emergency Day 3

So as we all scramble to make sense of the events that unfolded on the night of July 1, various wild theories and speculations are being thrown about as to who really was behind the riots. Some are suggesting that the riots were incited by certain businessmen serving foreign interests in the natural deposits and mining. More to come on these theories tomorrow.

Internal Affairs and Law Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil spoke to the press today, amidst criticism of the decision to shut down all commercial / independent media and the biased coverage of the events on the state TV. He has emphasized that the media black-out will continue during the 4-day state of emergency, and once it is lifted, the press will once again have their journalistic freedom to continue their coverage. He has also stated that there are a significant number of under-age among the detainees, and they will be released to their parents' custody if proven innocent of participation in the violent riots within the next two days. The parents will also have to give reassurances to keep their children away from public areas and gatherings. I am not so sure what he meant by "public areas" and how long they must keep away from these areas.

MP's Kh. Battulga, L.Gundalai and B.Batbayar visited the detention centre at Denjiin 1000 to meet with the law enforcement officials and the police. Reps from the National Human Rights Commission also visited and worked at the detention centre today to monitor and assess the situation. They have yet to issue any press statements regarding the conditions inside the detention centre.

Update
:P.Oyunchimeg of the Human Rights Commission gave an interview to the Daily News after her visit. According to her, there are around 26 underaged amongst the detainees and a number of women. Reps from the Commission were at the centre for 30 minutes to observe the situation. She emphasizes that the detainees are being interrogated without any access to legal aid. She goes on to state that she has not observed any evidence of police brutality during her visit. Daily News reports to have received numerous complaints from citizens released from the detention centre of police using scare tactics, physical violence on detainees.
On their website, The National Human Rights Commission states that they have appealed to the Mongolian Assocation of Advocates to provide the detainees with legal representation. [Source:NHRC website]

The police and emergency officials are working to determine the cost of all the damages caused during the riots. A difficult task, I am sure, given the level of destruction and looting at the buildings hit by the rioters. The rioters reportedly looted whatever they could carry and burned whatever they couldn't carry. There have also been reports of rioters carrying out money safes from offices.

The MPRP building was inspected for building integrity and damages today and according to the state inspector, the building is near to collapse. The roof of the building had collapsed and the support pillars had become unstable. The building had 100 rooms, and rioters had looted and burned archive files that contained the MPRP history of the past 80 years. In addition, hard disks were stolen during the riots which contained important party documents.

Aeromongolia travel agency, which was renting an office space at the MPRP building, had reportedly suffered damages of Tg 350-400 million (approx. US$ 300,000 ~ 340,000).

There was another extraordinary / emergency session held today at the Parliament. The only report to emerge from the session: The government will give a grant of Tg 212 million (approx. US$ 180,000) to the National Philharmonic Orchestra, Morin Huur Ensemble and other group of artists who suffered significant losses during the attack on the Central Palace of Culture.

Some rebuilding and reconciliation steps are being taken, though little is being reported on the DP vs MPRP dispute. Ts.Elbegdorj has been in the news during the days following the riots and in my opinion, seems far from reconciliation. Below is a Youtube video of his interview with MNB. He criticizes the government for not preventing the demonstrations from turning violent, and proceeds to accuse the police of using brutality and firing live rounds at civilians at a later stage in the riots. The video is in Mongolian with no English captions.