Return to Transcripts main page


Iran Voting for Their New President; Vladimir Putin Praise President Biden; Israel Strikes Gaza on Thursday; Beijing Blocks Vaccine Into Taiwan; Taiwan Develop Their Own Vaccine; European Union Open Their Door to Tourists; China Ramps Up Pressure On Taiwan; Migrant Workers In Thailand Struggle To Help Families Back Home; Tokyo Olympics, Organizers Considering The Number Of Spectators To Safely Allow. Aired 3-3:45a ET

Aired June 18, 2021 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN newsroom. Right now, voters in Iran casting their ballots. We'll explain why this election could have a huge effect on Iran's future at home and with the west.

Russian President Vladimir Putin heaps post summit praise on Joe Biden. Why he says the media has the U.S. leader all wrong.

And a CNN exclusive. For months, Taiwan has blamed China for blocking much-needed COVID-19 vaccines from reaching its source. Now a self- produced vaccine might be on the way and could be in arms as soon as next month.

You have said that Ebrahim Raisi would mean, quote, "hardline control of all branches of government, leaving no political room for majority views." Explain what you mean by that?

SORAYA LENNIE, AUSTRALIAN-IRANIAN JOURNALIST: Well there are three main branches of the Islamic republic that are elected. The presidency, of course, the parliament, and the assembly of experts. Now we saw last year, at the Guardian Council called the reformists and the moderates from running in parliament, then of course, therefore, you have a hardline parliament. Because they were the only ones who were allowed to run.

The same thing that's happened in the presidency as well. So, effectively, we are going to have a hardline president in that office. Now, that means that for the past 20 years we've seen consistently Iranians voting for reform and moderation, and these are the politics and the reviews that the majority of Iranians hold.

Now if you exclude those views from those elected offices, where do they go? Effectively, it means that Iranians, the majority of Iranians and the views are no longer represented in elected offices in the country.

HOLMES: Now assuming he does win, which he almost certainly will, what do you think his position will be regarding the relations with the west? And also, in terms of Iran's influence with the region from Iraq to Syria to Lebanon.

LENNIE: Well, foreign policy is not his strong suit, of course, he is a prosecutor, he's a judiciary chief, so I think that what will happen is the status quo, Iran's regional policies, including, you know, vis- a-vis Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Lebanon, will stay the same. This will just be to maintain the status quo.

I think very rarely things will change unless you have a very pragmatic president, of course, or somebody who is very diplomatically driven like they Rouhani administration was.

HOLMES: So, how important is this election not just in terms of international relations but for Iranian citizens, if it is indeed a move towards conservatives. Iranians by all account seemed pretty disillusioned with it all.

LENNIE: I think you're quite right, and your correspondent picked up on that as well. I think the priority here is the economy. The economy has really overtaken reform, I think as the main priority for Iranians in the past 15 years, and as the economic malaise and sanctions, and you know, maximum pressure from the United States really took hold.

We saw that reforms, civil liberties, the push for the release of political prisoners really became casualties in this economic problem. So, I think this is the priority right now is fixing the economy, reducing inflation specifically, and of course, the unemployment rate.

HOLMES: Yes. A lot of Iranians had a lot of hope in the JCPOA, the nuclear deal which of course Donald Trump pulled out of. How might the election impact the future of the nuclear agreement? Especially now that the Biden administration wants back in, but you know, with hard- liners running the show, how does that impact all of that?

LENNIE: Well, what's happened now is that the JCPOA when it was really sort of fragmented in terms of its support, it's really become state policy to comply with the JCPOA, to continue that agreement. So, I think talks in Vienna are going to continue as they were, of course the Rouhani administration regardless of who wins in this election, is still in power until the new president sworn in in August.

So there is a small window here in which these talks in Vienna can continue, and I think it's an everyone's interest, including the new presidents interest to get this deal ink while Rouhani is still in power.


HOLMES: Great analysis as always, Soraya Lennie in Melbourne there. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Well North Korea's leader admits that some people in his country may

not be able to put enough food on the table in the coming months. Kim Jong-un, saying his nation is facing what he called a tense food situation. That's according to state media.

He spoke after the United Nations made a dire estimate that North Korea's projected shortage is the equivalent of around two months' worth of food. Pyongyang residents confirmed to CNN that the price of some locally produced staples has risen with the cost of items like eggs and spinach doubling, or even tripling.

Both U.S. President Joe Biden and the Russian President Vladimir Putin are back home after their summit in Geneva. President Biden describing the three hours long closed-door summit as positive, while the Russian president said that the talks have been constructive. But Mr. Putin had a few, perhaps surprising to some things to say about his U.S. counterpart once he got home.

CNN's Nic Robertson with that.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: With his rare praise by President Putin for President Biden so soon after that summit comes as the Russian president was holding a video conference with graduates from Russia's graduate school of public administration. And he said that the pair of them had got on, it was quite friendly he said, that they understood each other, and understood where each other stood on key issues.

But then came one of the surprising bits were President Putin actually said that the Russian media's presentation of President Biden, of his image, that they got it all wrong. And in fact, Biden is a real professional.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This image of President Biden which is pictured by Russian in U.S. media does not correspond to reality. This image of him can feel discouraging, but there is no need to be discouraged because President Biden is a professional. And he should be very precise while working with him to not miss anything. He doesn't miss a thing.

I repeat once again, he is focused. He understands what he wants to achieve and reaches it very skillfully. You can easily feel it.


ROBERTSON: What makes Putin's comments there particularly surprising is the reference to Russia's media has not been portraying Biden as he actually is, because they have been portraying him as somebody who is weak who is not really up to the job who might not last through his presidency. And when Russian media presents President Biden that way it's coming from the Kremlin.

So here you have President Putin saying, well, change that. So, are we going to see now a different version of President Biden portrayed in Russian media? That certainly what Vladimir Putin is hinting at there. What it does seem to reference in many ways is what Dr. Jill Biden had said in the run up to the summit where she said President Biden was over prepared for the meeting. That now seems to be endorsed by President Putin.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

HOLMES: Israeli warplanes again strike Gaza late on Thursday. The second airstrike in three days. Israel said it targeted Hamas military sites after incendiary balloons launched this week from Gaza set dozens of fires in Israel. No casualties have been reported from either the tires or the air strikes.

Now the balloons are pretty old Hamas tactic, but one that the new Israeli government seems will no longer tolerate. The former finance minister says Israel decided to change the rules after its last deadly conflict with Hamas in May. But there is growing risk it will fracture the brutal ceasefire between the two.

More now from CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Israeli military saying it's in response to a barrage of incendiary balloons that have been launched from Gaza into Israel. They say that these balloons that are often look like party decorations that are attached to either explosive devices or other items that are set off on fire. They said this have set off at least 30 fires in southern Israel.

Tonight, the Israeli military saying that it struck a rocket launch site and military compound. This comes after other airstrikes have happened overnight on Tuesday when the Israeli military says it also struck Hamas military targets. So far, we are not hearing reports of any casualties.


HOLMES: Hadas Gold reporting for us there in Jerusalem.

We're going to take a quick break, when we come back, Taiwan accusing Beijing of getting in the way as it tries to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19. But everything might change as soon as next month. We take you to Taipei live to discuss.


Also, U.S. airports reporting travel numbers not seen since before the pandemic. And Europe wants to cash in. Its plans for bringing back American tourists, that's when we come back.


HOLMES (on camera): And returning now to our top story, a hardline Shiite cleric is the favorite in Iran's presidential election which is well underway at this hour. And if Ebrahim Raisi wins, he is will undoubtedly move the Islamic republic further to the right. The close ally of supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei is under U.S. sanctions for alleged human rights abuses. But he does support talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

Crippling sanctions by the west and the coronavirus pandemic have combined to hit Iran's economy hard. Many, blaming outgoing president Hassan Rouhani. Now the ayatollah is appealing for a large turnout, but expert say it could instead be a record low.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen with more from Tehran.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are many who fear and who expect that the turnout would be pretty low this time around. Certainly, if you look at some of the statements that were made early this morning with Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he was obviously the first to vote in this election, and he urged people to go to the polls, saying that if the turnout was low, that it would weaken Iran's enemies.

Obviously speaking first and foremost about the United States. And there were many who believe because the Guardian Council, that's the body that vets the candidates who are allowed to run in the election, because they disqualified so many people, leaving only seven candidates in the end.

And then also three of those candidates dropped out in favor of Ebrahim Raisi. Many fear that that, you know, that would drop the enthusiasm levels. I think so far, that the early stages of the voting that we've been seeing, and you can see some of the folks who are lining up here to cast their ballots, it's been a little more than, I think many people expected. This is the second polling station that we've been to, and the first polling station that we went to, also had a pretty decent line of people.

There is talk of some problems that have happened in the early hours, apparently extended waiting times and some issues also with the vote process, but by and large, it seems as though and it's still much too early to tell whether or not that really is a trend. That it might be a little higher than people did expect or than the authorities possibly did expect.

The people that we spoke to unequivocally have said that the economy, obviously, is the biggest issue to them. Of course, this country is still suffering from the crippling sanctions of the Trump administration, trying to mitigate that obviously by trying to get the U.S. back into compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement. Of course, Iran also back to full compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement. Michael?

HOLMES: Well, tell us more about him. He is a -- he is a hard-liner. What could we expect his position would be in terms of relations with the west?


PLEITGEN: Yes, I think -- I think you are absolutely right, of course he's very much a hard liner, as you notice he is the head of the Iranian judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, known for someone who is big at dishing out very tough sentences. A lot of death sentences in the past couple of years here in Iran.

And I think as far as the relations with the west is concerned, it's obviously not going to get easier for the west and its relations with Iran. There are, however, certain things what I would say there could be some continuity. If you look, for instance, at the Iran nuclear agreement which of course, by far, is the most important issue to the west right now, to the United State when dealing with Iran.

Ebrahim Raisi has says that he is in favor of getting back into full compliance with the JCPOA, and also of course, the U.S. coming back into the JCPOA. But the reason why he does that is because the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says he supports those negotiations to get the nuclear agreement back on track.

So that's certainly something that even with the new administration is going to continue to be followed. Of course, the negotiations that are going on right now in Vienna, they are aimed at trying to get the JCPOA back into place in its full capacity before the new administration here in Iran takes office.

The other thing, and this is very important to Iranians of course especially is economic policy. While you have the Rouhani administration, for a very long time was looking to internationalized, if you will, the economy, he was looking for outside investment into the economy. Ebrahim Raisi is someone who really someone who says he wants the economy here to be completely autonomous because most of the Iranians here that new sanctions could be levied against them in the future.

They are saying, for instance, the U.S. is quite unpredictable in its relations with Iran. So, you could see a very different mode of operating when it comes to the economy here, but as far as the negotiations for the nuclear program are concerned, the nuclear deal are concerned, that seems to be on track, Michael.

HOLMES: Fred Pleitgen there on the spot for us in Tehran. Fred, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Now, Taiwan will start administering its next round of Moderna COVID- 19 vaccines starting today. The island has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world and accuses Beijing of slowing access to those shots. But a new vaccine developed in Taiwan could soon be a game-changer.

CNN's Will Ripley standing by with a CNN exclusive. And Will, Taiwan didn't have a lot of options vaccine wise, because getting enough foreign made vaccines has proved to be a real struggle, right?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has, and Taiwan's government has blamed Beijing. Beijing counters with the fact that they've been offering their own China made vaccines for months. And so, on this island like in many other countries around the world, the issue of vaccines and domestically produced vaccines really has been highly politicized here.

But the numbers don't lie. When you look at total cases and total deaths, just over the last month. I mean, because if you think about it just over a month ago, there were almost no active cases here. Now, you have seen a six-fold increase in total cases. A 41-fold increase in total deaths. The numbers are going up. There are doses made available right here in Taiwan, but the crucial question, are they safe and effective?


RIPLEY: At Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corporation --

You must be so busy right now.

UNKNOWN: Yes, sure.

RIPLEY: You can feel energy in the air. This company is the first in Taiwan to submit its COVID-19 vaccine to government health officials for emergency use authorization. Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen hopes locally made vaccines will be ready for the public by late next month.

Taiwan is battling its most severe outbreak of the pandemic. The government is struggling to get enough foreign vaccines in a region where China often calls the shots.

Cross strait tensions are high. Taipei accuses Beijing of blocking access to foreign vaccines. A claim China denies. That makes the work happening here crucial.

This is the room where they package and label box after box of these single dose syringes. Each box contains 100 of these. And the company says they can scale up production and eventually produce 40 to 50 million doses a year.

CHARLES CHEN, CEO, MEDIGEN VACCINE BIOLOGICS: On one hand I feel excited that our vaccine is coming. But on the other hand, I also feel very sad. Even one month earlier maybe we are able to save more people's lives.

RIPLEY: This is Medigen CEO Charles Chen's first interview since his company apply for emergency use authorization.

What would you say to people here in Taiwan who might be reluctant to take a domestically produced vaccine?

CHEN: That once the data and the result is transparent and convincing, I think people will very much then been convinced.


RIPLEY: Chen says that data shows their vaccine is safe. It produces antibodies in 99.8 percent of patients, what they don't know is the efficacy rate. Taiwan had almost no active cases until just over a month ago. How do you develop a vaccine when you don't have active cases?


RIPLEY: Overseas business development director Paul Torkehagen says Medigen just finished phase two clinical trials.

TORKEHAGEN: So, what we did was we designed a really, really large phase two. Usually phase two is about a few hundred people. Our phase two is 3,800 participants. So, we wanted a very large amount of safety data.

RIPLEY: Since you don't know efficacy, is it too soon to get emergency use and start vaccinating people?

TORKEHAGEN: What's the consequence of not vaccinating and being not protected?

RIPLEY: Will you be getting your vaccine, your company's vaccine --

CHEN: Yes.

RIPLEY: -- when it's available?

CHEN: Yes.

RIPLEY: No question?

CHEN: No question.

RIPLEY: But there are questions. How effective is Taiwan's vaccine? Here, it's a matter of life or death.


RIPLEY: Quite a conundrum facing Taiwanese regulators here. Because if they are going to approve this vaccine, they have to rely on something called immunobridging. That's where they look at the antibodies produced by the Taiwan made vaccine and compare it with antibodies in a vaccine, a foreign vaccine that's already been approved.

So, if the antibody levels are about the same, then you can make the assumption that the efficacy rate is also about the same. The U.S. FDA has yet to make a decision on this, it might be quite some time, the same is true in other countries like Japan and South Korea.

So, Taiwan has to choose whether they wait, potentially months, and months, and months for foreign vaccines to come in and for more data about immunobridging, or do they allow these vaccines to be distributed with the big unanswered question about efficacy because right now they just don't have the data. Their phase three trials are currently underway, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. What a curious situation. CNN's Will Ripley, good to see you, Will. Thanks.

Now as India moves past the peak of its second COVID wave, the nation is dealing with a new crisis linked to the virus. Black fungus is a deadly infection spreading among India's coronavirus patients. It feeds on dead flesh and erodes the bones. A dreadful thing, nearly 12,000 people in India have been infected so far this year. The medicine to treat the fungus is extremely expensive and in very short supply.

Starting today, every adult in England age 18 and up is eligible to get vaccinated. Across the U.K., more than half of all adults are fully vaccinated, and about four out of five have received at least one dose. Yet, the U.K. is still seeing a rise in cases, more than 11,000 new infections reported on Thursday. The most in a day since February. That's due in part to the spread of the Delta variant first identified in India which is said to be more transmissible.

Now, in a little more than an hour the European Union is expected to give the green light for American travelers and their wallets back into the E.U. countries for the first time since the pandemic regardless of whether they've been vaccinated.

CNN's Melissa Bell standing by live in Paris. Certainly, good news for those of us in the U.S. who want to go to Europe, but why the change, and especially without requiring vaccinations?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially what happens is that the European Union ambassadors have agreed that they would expand their green list of countries, that is a list of countries where they consider that the COVID-19 situation is sufficiently under control, that they can lift some of those restrictions.

So, for instance, for the time being here in France, the way that it works is that if you're a fully vaccinated American you can come to France, if you can also provide a negative PCR test. If you are unvaccinated, you can only travel for essential reasons. That is if you live in France or you have a particular reason to come and that you have to show proof of.

So, clearly, the travel remains complicated. What the E.U.'s decision means is that Biden, the United States and a number of other countries that had been on that amber list, so a lower level down up to that green list means that essentially are going to make it much easier even for those who aren't vaccinated to come in and out of the E.U.

Now, this still remains, Michael, a question from individual member states. So, the E.U.'s decision comes, it will now be up to the individual countries to decide how, and when, and in what manner they lifted restrictions.

We've just been hearing this last few minute from the foreign ministry here in France speaking on French TV and saying, look, we really want to get tourism back, we want to get American tourists back to Paris and to other parts of France as quickly as possible.

[03:24:55] So what we expect is that the French, for instance, will very quickly make a decision that, in fact, Americans can come and go more freely even those who are unvaccinated, even though they will, or perhaps will have to show a test, a PCR test that is negative.

So, there will remain some restrictions but essentially non-essential travel becomes once again the norm and the possibility. And you can imagine that a lot of European countries are desperate to seize it in order, as you say, to get some of those American wallets back to Europe.

HOLMES: Well, I'll see you soon then. Melissa Bell in Paris, thank you so much. I actually will. OK, good to see you.

All right. Coming up here on CNN Newsroom, the military coup in Myanmar puts a strain on the country's citizens who live abroad. The main reason they worry about family members who still live back home. We'll have a live report.


HOLMES (on camera): Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN Newsroom.

One U.S. senator wants to know how likely it would be for China to try to take over Taiwan by force in the near future. Well here is one reason why. This week, Taiwan reported the largest incursion yet by the Chinese air force, making relations between Beijing and the self- governed island even more tense.

Now, the issue came up during a public congressional hearing with the U.S. secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Here is what they have to say.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Uniting with Taiwan is no question, a goal of China in terms of, you know, what the timeline or timeframe for that is, it's left to be seen. And of course, there are a number of intelligence estimates that address that issue.

MARK MILLEY, U.S. CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think China has a way to go, to develop the actual nuke capability, to conduct military operations, to seize through military means the entire island of Taiwan, if they wanted to do that. I think that this little intent right now or motivation to do it militarily. There's no reason to do it militarily, and they know that. So, I think right now the probability is probably low in the immediate near-term future.


HOLMES (on camera): Still, Chinese warplane flights and live fire drills in the Taiwan Strait are raising fears.

Drew Thompson is a visiting senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore. Here is what he says about the risk of China taking Taiwan by force.


DREW THOMPSON, VISITING SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE: I think there's a key risk of that happening, but it's the relatively low one.


So, it's important to remember that -- this you point out this thing, this tension has been in place for more than 70 years. And China has been ramping up, and escalating its military coercion against Taiwan, that is both a signal to Taiwan, what they call independents forces, as well as to the United States, and increasingly Japan, and now the G7 as well.

So, what we have is really, still a very static situation where deterrence is working, and China is deterred from using force, but they are not deterred from using pressure, and coercion. So, it is still a very risky situation, but it is unclear if China will actually going to resort to the use of force, or simply continue to use political pressure, gray zone tactics, and military shows of force such as we saw earlier this week.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): So, what if China, as some had suggested, one option would be implementing a blockade. I mean, what would that mean in terms of impacts, but also in terms of pressure on the west to protect Taiwan?

THOMPSON: Well, two things to remember. A blockade is a declaration of war, under international law, under the rules of the law, or it would be an active declaration of war on China's part. So, blockade goes far beyond what we are currently seeing in terms of gray zone pressure, and coercion. So, the U.S. would be pressured to respond very forcefully, as with Japan. Because a blockade on Taiwan would have very negative consequences for the global economy, for shipping in the western pacific, so it would be very detrimental.

I think the other thing to consider, and certainly Taiwanese military fighters consider a blockade to be the first step in a continuum of force to be used against China, that would ultimately against Taiwan, and would ultimately be ending an invasion of Taiwan, by China itself.

HOLMES: Right. It's interesting, because unlike predecessors, China's President Xi Jinping, he has made clear his ambition to resolve the Taiwan issue, as opposed to continuing the status quo. I mean, he said that the situation, quote, cannot go on generation to generation. Explain why Taiwan is so important to the mainland, and why Xi would take that position.

THOMPSON: Well, Xi Jinping, of course, has put forward a series of ideas, and concepts that, essentially, articulate his leadership and his governments. And one of those concepts is the China dream of national rejuvenation, which we presume, would also include the unification with Taiwan. So, he's much staked his concepts of Xi Jinping thought, and the China dream is a unifying with Taiwan. The problem is, that's not happening peacefully, the people of Taiwan

themselves are not motivated to join such a dramatically different, political, and social system as China, they're happy to do business with trade, and invest with Taiwan -- with China, but Taiwanese don't want to become part of China.

So, this is not going to happen naturally or peacefully, and Xi Jinping is really the only leader, so far, that has had the military ability to use force. The PLA has grown so steadily in the last 20 years, averaging 10 percent growth, expanding its navy, expanding its air force, it now has the ability to project power in a way that Xi Jinping could actually harness to achieve a policy objective.

And none of the previous leaders in China, have had that ability. So, that's one of the reasons why we're so concerned. It's not whether or not it may happen, is that now, it actually could.

HOLMES: Well, the military coup in Myanmar has left so much unrest and insecurity in Myanmar, thousands of people have fled into neighboring Thailand. And, there is now constant worry about the safety of their loved ones.

CNN's Paula Hancocks, joins me now to discuss. I know that you found that you know, it's not just people from Myanmar inside the country who are suffering.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): That's right, Michael. When I was in Bangkok a few weeks ago, I actually spoke to some of those migrant workers who have been working in Bangkok for several years, and sending money back to their families in Myanmar, and it was money that was desperately needed they said. According to the international labor organization, some $1.4 billion were sent back to Myanmar, from overseas, in 2015. Showing that not only the economy relies on this, but individual families find it crucial. And, that lifeline has now been cut off.


HANCOCKS (voice over): This is the aftermath of a military airstrike on a gold mine in Myanmar. Cries of agony, as one of the survivors seized a burned and mingle remains of his colleagues. 11 people who are reported dead. The rest of this video is too graphic to show.


Across the border, in Thailand, Miyat (ph) says he's relative works at that mine but, luckily, he was not there on that day. Showing the photo he says, he does not understand why the military would target it. Miyat is not his real name, he fears for his family safety back home.

UNKNOWN (through translator): I can't stand it. They are innocent people from the forest. I don't think they even had internet. So they wouldn't have known what was happening.

HANCOCKS: Miyat meets fellow migrant workers, (inaudible) to earn money to sent back to their families in Myanmar, something that cannot do now with the crumbling banking system and internet shutdown. All they can do is watch social media to see what's happening, and try to connect with family back home.

UNKNOWN: I never thought that a coup would happen. I could not even think it would happen. I am very sad when I saw a lot of killing in Myanmar. It feels like they're death is my death, as I couldn't do anything for them.

HANCOCKS: The couple shows me a photo of their 7-year-old son who lives with his grandmother near the border. They haven't seen him for more than two years due to COVID restrictions. The video calls that kept them going, are no longer possible, with the internet shut down.

UNKNOWN: I'm very worried about my child. We heard the military is taking people around our village for forced labor, especially boys and men, so they cannot sleep peacefully at night.

HANCOCKS: As with previous military coups in Myanmar, Thailand has become a reluctant refuge for those an exile. Frederick, not his real name, says that he averaged three or four hours of sleep during a day in Yangon, he don't sleep at night at all, as that's is when the arrest happens. An activists of the civil disobedience movement, he says he was a target, and fled to Thailand.

UNKNOWN: They are truly killing people, and they are arresting people. Even if you arrest, you don't know, you can't keep them alive or not.

HANCOCKS: Sleep no longer comes easy to these migrant workers, they may be out of reach of the military's brutal grip, but their families are not. Fear, mixed with helpless gilts, has become their new reality.


HANCOCKS (on camera): So despite the dangers in Myanmar, and the brutal military crackdown that's continuing against the pro-democracy activists and movement. Many of the migrant workers that I spoke to in Bangkok said that they didn't want to be able to go home. They wanted to be in Myanmar. They said it was a difficult life to be a migrant worker away from home, away from family, not earning as much as you would like to or be able to.

But now, they are even unable to help their families. The whole reason for them being so far away from their families, and many of them just feel desperate. All they want to do is go back to Myanmar, despite how dangerous it is. Michael.

HOLMES (on camera): Great reporting. Paula, thanks. Paula Hancocks in Seoul, I appreciate it. And we will be right back.


[03:40:00] HOLMES: Welcome back, Tokyo Olympic organizers are trying to decide

how many spectators they should allow into Olympic venues, or whether they should let anybody in the door. They are especially worried of course about the delta coronavirus variant, the one first identified in India.

Selina Wang is in Tokyo for us, joins us now. So, do Japan's medical experts think spectator should be allowed?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Michael, in short, no. In fact, Japan's top COVID-19 adviser said it would be, quote, desirable to have no spectators at the Olympics. But the question is, are organizers going to actually take that advice? The government has said that if there are no emergency measures in place, there could be up to 10,000 spectators at large-scale venues.

But, for the spectators that can actually attend the games, it is clear, it's not going to be the normal party and festivity. In fact, Olympic organizers say that they should go straight from their homes, two Olympic venues, and back. No drinking, or partying in the streets, and to socially distance themselves. Take a listen to what organizers have to say.


HIDEMASA NAKAMURA, TOKYO 2020 MAIN OPERATION CENTER CHIEF: And during travel, please keep a safe distance away from everyone, except for your family members, and no group drinking and eating in the venue. So, if you are eating, you need to eat alone, or at least that you should be facing the same direction as your friends or your families.


WANG (on camera): These measures are all attempts to avoid a major rebound in cases once when the Olympics begin, Tokyo, and other parts of the country are going to come off the state of emergency on June 20th, and then they'll shift to a quasi-state of emergency until July 11th.

Now, none of these are hard lockdowns and under quasi-emergency measure, restaurants are still ask to close early, but now, they can serve alcohol. Now Olympic organizers also said that the delta variant is a major, concerned they announced greater restrictions on athletes coming from India, they will have to quarantine and be tested daily, for seven days, before they arrive to Japan.

And meantime, you have still just 6 percent of the Japanese population fully vaccinated. The Prime Minister has vowed to increase the doses to 1 million doses administered per day, but Michael, even at that rate, you would still only have less than a quarter of the Japanese population fully vaccinated by the time these games begin.

HOLMES: Yes. A lot of concerns. Good to see you Selina, thanks. Selina Wang, in Tokyo, I appreciate it.

Now, Olympic dreams could be going by the wayside for U.S. runner who had a positive doping tests in December. Shelby Houlihan was set to compete in the Olympic trials in Eugene Oregon that begin today. Even though she is under a four year suspension, because of a positive test. Now, Houlihan blamed the results on eating a pork burrito. A study warned that ingredients can lead to a false positive.

Well, the U.S. Olympic committee now says, it will abide by international rules, suggesting Houlahan will be out of the Olympic trials. She is a U.S. record holder in 1,500 and 5,000 meter competitions.

I'm Michael Holmes, thanks for spending part of your day with me, you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter, at home CNN. African voices change makers is up next.