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?”


Life in prison for 'evil' loner who kidnapped US teen, killed parents

In this March 27, 2019, file photo, Jake Patterson appears for a hearing at the Barron County Justice Center, in Barron, Wis. (AP)
Updated 1 min 36 sec ago
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Life in prison for 'evil' loner who kidnapped US teen, killed parents

  • Details of Jayme’s time in captivity have not been released, and no charges were brought by prosecutors in the county where she was held

BARRON, Wisconsin: A Wisconsin man was sentenced Friday to life in prison for kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killing her parents after the girl told the judge she that wanted him “locked up forever” for trying to steal her.
Jake Patterson, 21, pleaded guilty in March to two counts of intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping. He admitted he broke into Jayme’s home in October, gunned down her parents, James and Denise Closs, made off with her and held her under a bed in his remote cabin for 88 days before she made a daring escape.
Jayme didn’t appear at Patterson’s sentencing hearing Friday, but a family attorney read her first public statements about her ordeal to Judge James Babler.
“He thought that he could own me but he was wrong. I was smarter,” the statement said. “I was brave and he was not. ... He thought he could make me like him, but he was wrong. ... For 88 days he tried to steal me and he didn’t care who he hurt or who he killed to do that. He should be locked up forever.”
The judge called Patterson the “embodiment of evil” before sentencing him to consecutive life sentences without the possibility of release on the homicide charges. He also ordered Patterson to serve 25 years in prison and 15 years of extended supervision on the kidnapping count.
“There’s no doubt in my mind you’re one of the most dangerous men to ever walk on this planet,” Babler said.
Patterson sat shaking his head during most of the hearing. Offered a chance to speak, he said he would do anything to take back what he did.
“I would die,” he said. “I would do absolutely anything ... to bring them back. I don’t care about me. I’m just so sorry. That’s all.”
The judge read statements that Patterson wrote in jail in which he said he had succumbed to fantasies about keeping a young girl and torturing and controlling her. He started looking for an opportunity to kidnap someone, even deciding he might want to take multiple girls and kill multiple families, according to the statements. Jayme was the first girl he saw after these thoughts entered his mind, he said.
Patterson’s attorneys, Richard Jones and Charles Glynn, told the judge that Patterson was isolated and that he overreacted to loneliness. They asked for leniency for Patterson, noting that he had pleaded guilty to spare Jayme and her family from a trial.
According to a criminal complaint, Patterson was driving to work in October when he spotted Jayme getting on a school bus near her rural home outside Barron, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Minneapolis. He decided then that “she was the girl he was going to take.”
District Attorney Brian Wright told the judge that Patterson traveled to the Closs home on two separate occasions to kidnap her but turned back because of activity at her house.
He finally drove to the house during the early morning hours of Oct. 15 dressed in black and carrying his father’s shotgun. He shot James Closs through a window in the front door, blasted the lock and moved inside.
He found the bathroom door locked. He broke the door down and discovered Jayme and her mother clinging to each other in the bathtub. He tied Jayme up with tape, then shot Denise Closs in the head as she sat next to her daughter.
He dragged Jayme through her father’s blood and out to his car. He threw her in the trunk and drove her to his cabin in Gordon in Douglas County, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northeast of Barron.
He kept her trapped under a bed using totes filled with weights and hit her with a curtain rod, Wright said.
“He kept her in constant fear, threatening her, telling her things would get worse,” Wright said.
Jayme finally escaped on Jan. 10 while Patterson was away. She flagged down a neighbor, who found someone to call police. Patterson was arrested minutes later as he returned to the cabin.
Patterson was also ordered to register as a sex offender, which under Wisconsin law may be required both for an actual sex offense or an attempted sexual offense. Details of Jayme’s time in captivity have not been released, and no charges were brought by prosecutors in the county where she was held.