Rohingya refugees wary after Myanmar minister’s hostile remarks

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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
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An aerial view of the squalid Rohingya camps at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh which accommodate more than one million refugees. (AN photo)
Updated 06 December 2018
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Rohingya refugees wary after Myanmar minister’s hostile remarks

  • Myanmar ambassador summoned by Dhaka
  • Crackdown on Rohingya was ‘ethnic cleansing’ said UN

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees have told Arab News they fear going back to Myanmar after a government minister made derogatory remarks about Islam.
Myanmar’s Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture Thura Aung Ko also made comments about the Muslim minority group, which has been subjected to a military crackdown described by the United Nations as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.
Ko alleged that Rohingya youths in refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh were being brainwashed to “truly march toward Myanmar” and referred to the Rohingya as Bengalis, a term used by Naypyidaw to paint the group as illegal immigrants.
In another video, released by Radio Free Asia, Ko alleged that Myanmar’s Buddhist population was under threat.
“While we Buddhists practice monogamy and have only one or two children, an extreme religion encourages having three or four wives and giving birth to 15 to 20 children. After three, four, five decades in this Buddhist country, the Buddhist community will certainly become the minority,” he said in the video.
The Rohingya have faced severe discrimination in Myanmar and been the target of violence for years, notably in 2017.
Thousands were killed and more than 720,000 fled their homes following a Myanmar military crackdown purportedly aimed at militants, according to rights group.
Myanmar refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority and they are denied citizenship and other rights.
“We were living in a highly hostile environment, in many cases that were backed by the state. Now the world witnessed it once again after the religious affairs minister’s comments,” Daud Ali told Arab News, a 47-year-old living in the Kutapalang refugee camp in the southeastern city of Cox’s Bazar.
Another refugee at the same camp, 27-year-old Sayed Alam, said the Rohingya had always been treated as second class citizens.
“Our movements were highly restricted even in Rakhine,” he told Arab News, referring to the western Myanmar state where the majority of the Rohingya live, “so it’s no wonder that a minister of (Aung) Suu Kyi’s government makes derogatory remarks about Muslims.”
Bangladesh protested Ko’s remarks, summoning Myanmar’s Ambassador Lwin Oo to the Foreign Ministry in Dhaka on Wednesday.
Delwar Hossain, from the Foreign Ministry, said Bangladesh had conveyed its displeasure.
“We consider that these types of comments are unacceptable and disgraceful. Bangladesh has strongly objected and made its position clear. In the entire conversation, Myanmar’s envoy did not utter any words in defense of his country and only assured to convey Dhaka’s message to Naypyidaw,” Hossain told Arab News.
Ko, a former Myanmar army general, was appointed in 2016 by Suu Kyi after her party came to power in a general election landslide victory.
“Myanmar does not seem interested in Rohingya [refugees] repatriation,” former Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States Humayun Kabir told Arab News.
Myanmar would not be making negative remarks about Bangladesh if it were genuinely interested in creating a conducive environment for repatriation, he added.
“Actually Bangladesh has no other option to move forward with the repatriation issue except for creating more diplomatic pressure from the international community.”
An attempt to repatriate Rohingya refugees last month failed because of their refusal to go of their own accord.
They had a list of demands before any repatriation including safety and security in Rakhine, citizenship guarantee and freedom of movement.
The UNHCR is helping Bangladesh with the repatriation process to ensure it is voluntary.
One official report from humanitarian agencies said more than 15,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh since January 2018.
“It is very clear that Myanmar’s government is not willing to repatriate us and that’s why they are constantly spreading negative comments about Rohingyas,” said Mohammad Ashraf, a 38-year refugee from Balukhali camp. “How can we return to Myanmar amid such an unpleasant situation and hatred?”


Ex US senators warn of ‘constitutional crisis’ under Trump

Updated 46 min 47 sec ago
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Ex US senators warn of ‘constitutional crisis’ under Trump

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller probes whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election in his favor, and a soon-to-be Democrat-led House starts launching related investigations
  • Trump was directly implicated in ordering payments to alleged ex-lovers — which prosecutors believe sought to influence the outcome of the election

WASHINGTON: Forty-four former US Senators from both major US parties warned Monday of threats to US democracy under President Donald Trump, and a “constitutional crisis” for America.
They said the convergence of events — as special counsel Robert Mueller probes whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election in his favor, and a soon-to-be Democrat-led House starts launching related investigations — made for highly precarious political waters.
The 44 include Democrats such as Bill Bradley and John Kerry and Republicans such as Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Richard Lugar, and they paint the situation ominously as a constitutional crisis.
“It is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security,” the ex-lawmakers wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece Monday.
“We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld,” they wrote.
And “at other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time,” the group stressed.
They urged current and future members of the US Senate to make sure that “partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.” Bipartisan cooperation has plunged with Trump in power.
How lawmakers in both houses of Congress handle the crisis will be key to how the nation handles Trump’s being its first sitting president implicated in a felony.
Referred to as “Individual-1,” Trump was directly implicated in ordering payments to alleged ex-lovers — which prosecutors believe sought to influence the outcome of the election.