Malaysia’s Rohingya ‘in shock’ after Myanmar coup

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 6, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 06 February 2021

Malaysia’s Rohingya ‘in shock’ after Myanmar coup

  • Mohamed Ayub, a 31-year-old Rohingya refugee from Klang, told Arab News that the coup “came as a shock”
  • He said the refugee community had not received any updates from Myanmar since the overthrow

KUALA LUMPUR: Rohingya refugees in Malaysia say they have been “left in the dark” over their future after last week’s military coup in Myanmar.
On Feb. 1, armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing overthrew Myanmar’s government, seizing Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders, before declaring a state of emergency and announcing military rule over the country for a year. 
Mohamed Ayub, a 31-year-old Rohingya refugee from Klang, told Arab News that the coup “came as a shock” and that the refugee community had not received any updates from Myanmar since the overthrow. 
“We aren’t stuck here as we are seeking shelter, but the situation will get more difficult for us even with help from a non-governmental organization,” he said.
He added that his family members were “safe” in Myanmar and there was nothing else he could do “except wait for some updates.”
Ayub arrived in Malaysia on a boat eight years ago. Due to the risks of the journey, he decided to travel alone, to pursue a better life for all, leaving behind his father and siblings in Myanmar.
Today, the Rohingya refugee considers the Southeast Asian nation home. 
However, with the Rohingya becoming increasingly prominent in the country, certain sections of society have begun to view them as a social, economic and security threat.
While Malaysia is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention or its subsequent 1967 Protocol, it currently hosts 100,000 Rohingya refugees, the largest in the ASEAN and the fourth-highest globally.
Most the Rohingya fled Myanmar in 2017 due to conflicts in the Rakhine state. 
Over the years, the Rohingya community in Malaysia has faced discrimination, a recent report by Tenaganita, a non-governmental organization that works to protect migrant rights, said.
The report added: “In Malaysia, the previous welcoming tone toward refugees has now shifted, with heightened hate speech and xenophobic treatment.”
When the country reporting a spike in coronavirus cases, most of the infections were traced to the Rohingya community with “their poor living conditions blamed for being one of the reasons for the widespread disease,” Malaysian Heath Director-General Mohd Noor Hisham Abdullah said.
“The congested environment in the units could be one of the factors in the spread of COVID-19,” he told a press conference. 
However, the Feb. 1 coup has added to the community’s challenges.
On Friday, the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Malaysia condemned the takeover, saying it was an “act of disgrace” for the history of the state and Myanmar.  
The NLD listed two demands: The immediate release of President U Win Myint, Suu Kyi and other detainees.
Suu Kyi led the NLD to victory in 2015, in Myanmar’s first openly contested elections in 25 years. However, while she remains widely popular in Myanmar, her image suffered on the global stage due to her handling of the Rohingya crisis and treatment of the Muslim minority.
The army accuses the NLD of electoral fraud, citing poll irregularities.
However, the NLD, however, maintains that its landslide victory and participation in the polls complied with democratic norms and the 2008 constitution. 
“The reform process is to strengthen the root in a democracy which is already gaining momentum, and the coup hinders the continuation of democratic federalism,” the NLD said. 
NLD Chairman Than Phe Lay, citing issues faced by the Rohingya, has also submitted a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), criticizing the military coup after flights between Kuala Lumpur and Yangon were suspended. 
 “The refugees are in a lot of trouble as some of them were sent back to detention centers because airports are shut,” Than said.
Malaysia has six immigration detention centers where undocumented migrants are held.
Meanwhile, Sultan Bolkiah, chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that member states were “monitoring developments” in Myanmar.
“We recall the purposes and the principles enshrined in the ASEAN charter, including the adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, and respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he said.
Malaysia has said it will continue to advocate for peace and stability in Myanmar.
“Malaysia reaffirms the strong support for Myanmar’s democratic transition, the peace process and inclusive economic development,” the foreign ministry said.
However, experts say that ASEAN members “should not be involved in criticism of the Myanmar government.” 
“Malaysia has been vocal about Myanmar, particularly the process of democracy. Three years ago, for the first time in ASEAN history, Kuala Lumpur voiced its concern directly to Myanmar, especially regarding the Rohingya, and several ASEAN countries, especially Indonesia and Singapore, are also very critical of Myanmar,” Azmi Hassan, a geostrategy professor at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, told Arab News.
“I think the Rohingya issue is the driving force since Malaysia and Indonesia is the target destination. Things could get worse in Rakhine, and probably will, since communication to the outside world from Myanmar is at a bare minimum.”


Sudanese protest military coup, deal that reinstated PM

Updated 10 sec ago

Sudanese protest military coup, deal that reinstated PM

  • Footage circulated on social media showed demonstrators marching in different locations in Khartoum and Omdurman
  • In the western Darfur region, the death toll from tribal clashes over the weekend climbed to at least 48 people
CAIRO: Thousands of Sudanese took to the streets Monday in the capital of Khartoum and other cities in the latest protests against the October military coup and subsequent deal that reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
Footage circulated on social media purportedly showed demonstrators marching in different locations in Khartoum and its sister city of Omdurman. There were also protests in other cities, including Kassala, Sennar and Port Sudan.
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters marching in a street near the presidential palace in Khartoum, activist Nazim Sirag said. He said they also used heavy tear gas to break up a one-day sit-in protest in Khartoum’s district of Bahri. Around a dozen protesters suffered light injuries from tear gas canisters, he said.
In past rounds of demonstrations security forces used violence, including firing live ammunition at protesters, according to activists. At least 44 protesters were killed and hundreds were wounded since the coup, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee, which tracks protester deaths.
The Sudanese military seized power Oct. 25, dissolving the transitional government and arresting dozens of officials and politicians. The takeover upended a fragile planned transition to democratic rule more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir and his Islamist government.
Hamdok was reinstated last month amid international pressure in a deal that calls for an independent technocratic Cabinet under military oversight. The agreement included the release of government officials and politicians detained since the coup and the formation of an independent technocratic Cabinet led by Hamdok.
The deal, however, was rejected by the pro-democracy movement, which insists on handing over power to a civilian government to lead the transition. The protests came under the slogan of: “No negotiations, no compromise, no power-sharing” with the military.
Monday’s protests were called by the Sudanese Professionals Association and the so-called Resistance Committees, which spearheaded the uprising against Al-Bashir and then the military coup.
Among the protesters’ demands are the restructuring of the military under civilian oversight, purging officers loyal to Al-Bashir and disbanding armed groups including the Rapid Support Forces.
“We will keep on using all peaceful means to reject and resist until the fall of the coup government and the return to the course of democratic transition,” said protester Dalia Mostafa, while taking part in a march in Khartoum.
The Rapid Support Forces are a paramilitary unit notorious for atrocities during the Darfur war and a 2019 massacre of protesters in Khartoum. They are led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who is also the deputy head of the ruling sovereign council.
Dagalo is seen as the co-architect of the coup along with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling body.
Relentless street demonstrations have put pressure on the military and Hamdok to take measures to calm angry protesters and gain their trust. Hamdok has yet to announce his Cabinet, which is likely to face opposition from the pro-democracy movement.
In televised comments over the weekend, Burhan described the deal that reinstated Hamdok as “a true start” for the democratic transition.
He said they were working on crafting a “new political charter” with the aim of establishing a broader consensus among all political forces and movements.
In the western Darfur region, meanwhile, the death toll from tribal clashes over the weekend climbed to at least 48 people, all of them shot dead, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee. It said dozens of others were wounded, some in critical condition.
The fighting grew out of a financial dispute late Saturday between two individuals in a camp for displaced persons in the Kreinik area in West Darfur province.
The clashes continued Sunday, with Arab militias known as janjaweed attacking the camp and torching and looting property, according to Adam Regal, spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur.
The clashes in Darfur pose a significant challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional authorities to end decades-long rebellions in some areas like war-wrecked region.

More attacks will happen, says UK’s top counterterrorism cop

Updated 18 min 56 sec ago

More attacks will happen, says UK’s top counterterrorism cop

  • Neil Basu’s warning came during an inquiry into the 2017 bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester
  • ‘I’m going to be very blunt about this: We won’t stop them happening again, they will happen again. We have to try and minimize or reduce the risk,’ he said

LONDON: Britain’s highest-ranking counterterrorism police officer has warned that despite improvements in the ways agencies collaborate to prevent terror attacks, they cannot stop them all and it is inevitable that there will be more.

The comment by Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of the Metropolitan Police Service came on Monday when he appeared at the inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. Twenty-two people were killed, including a number of children, when 22-year-old suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated an explosive device at an Ariana Grande concert.

Basu, who serves as the National Police Chiefs Council lead for Counter Terrorism Policing, told the inquiry: “The horror of this makes you look very hard at, hopefully, preventing it ever happening again.”

But he added: “I’m going to be very blunt about this: We won’t stop them happening again, they will happen again. We have to try and minimize or reduce the risk and that means constantly trying to have a system that looks at improvement, no matter how busy we are.”

The inquiry into the attack in May 2017 is examining the activities of emergency services, including the police and intelligence agencies, in the lead-up to the attack.

Basu said the results of a joint police and MI5 review of a number of attacks that took place in 2017, including the arena bombing, were “humbling.” That review made 104 recommendations for improvements, four of which remain outstanding.

He added that cross-agency collaboration has improved since 2017 but that more work can yet be done to better align the work of agencies.

“We’re very close but we need to be closer still,” Basu said.

The inquiry also heard from Ian Fenn, the former headteacher of a Manchester school Abedi attended between 2009 and 2011. He said Abedi was not a good student and was, at times, “aggressive and rude” to teachers, and had been suspended for theft and for setting off fireworks.

However, there was “no indication,” Fenn added, that Abedi held extremist views at that time.

“He never came across as somebody who was opinionated, who was driven, that had an agenda,” he told the inquiry. “He was a typically lackluster child who drifted around.”


Pakistan army helicopter crashes in Kashmir; 2 pilots killed

Updated 06 December 2021

Pakistan army helicopter crashes in Kashmir; 2 pilots killed

  • Rescue helicopters and troops have been dispatched to Siachen

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani army helicopter crashed on Monday in bad weather in the Pakistan-administered section of disputed Kashmir, killing the two pilots on board, the military said.
A statement from the military said the helicopter went down on the Siachen glacier, one of the world’s longest mountain glaciers, located in the Karakoram Range, and often referred to as the “highest battleground on earth” because of the wars that Pakistan and India have fought over the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Rescue helicopters and troops have been dispatched to Siachen, the military said. No further details on the crash were immediately available. The two pilots were identified as Maj. Irfan Bercha and Maj. Raja Zeeshan Jahanzeb.
Siachen is known for tragedies, a desolate place where more troops have died from avalanches or bitter cold than in combat. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.


Gunmen kill town mayor, wound another in south Philippines

Updated 06 December 2021

Gunmen kill town mayor, wound another in south Philippines

  • Investigators were trying to identify the two gunmen and two companions who escaped on motorcycles and determine their motive
  • The two mayors were reportedly running in May 9 elections

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines: Motorcycle-riding gunmen killed a town mayor and wounded another in a brazen attack Monday that also killed their driver and caused villagers to flee to safety in a coastal village in the southern Philippines, police said.
Mayor Darussalam Lajid of Al-Barka town was killed and Mayor Alih Sali of Akbar town was wounded by at least two men armed with pistols while walking in Zamboanga city shortly after arriving on a speedboat from their island province of Basilan, police said.
A bodyguard of the two mayors was wounded and a driver who came to pick them up was killed, police said.
Investigators were trying to identify the two gunmen and two companions who escaped on motorcycles and determine their motive, including the possibility that it involved a political rivalry.
The two mayors were reportedly running in May 9 elections. Philippine elections have been marred in the past by bloody feuds and accusations of cheating, especially in rural regions with weak law enforcement and a proliferation of unlicensed firearms and private armies.


Italy imposes new COVID-19 rules on unvaccinated

Updated 06 December 2021

Italy imposes new COVID-19 rules on unvaccinated

  • Only those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 are exempt from the rules

ROME: People in Italy unvaccinated against COVID-19 can no longer go to the theater, cinemas, live music venues or major sporting events under new rules that came into force Monday.
Only those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 are exempt from the rules, which represent a significant tightening of restrictions in the face of rising infections.
New measures are also being enforced on public transport, with a so-called Green Pass showing proof of vaccination, recent recovery or a negative COVID-19 test now required even on local services.
A man in his 50s was fined $452 (€400) for not having his pass on Monday morning as he got off a bus near Piazza del Popolo in Rome, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
“I don’t have it because I wanted to get vaccinated in the next few days,” he was reported as saying.
A record 1.3 million Green Passes were downloaded on Sunday ahead of the change.
Meanwhile in Rome at the weekend, new rules requiring face masks to be worn outdoors in the busiest shopping streets came into effect.
Italy was the first European country to be hit by coronavirus in early 2020 and has one of the highest death tolls, at more than 134,000.
However, it is currently faring better than many of its neighbors, with 15,000 cases out of a population of 60 million reported on Sunday.
Almost 85 percent of over 12s have been vaccinated, a booster campaign is in full swing and jabs will soon be available for younger children.
The Green Pass was introduced in August for access to theaters and cinemas, museums and indoor dining, and extended to workplaces in October — a move that sparked widespread protests.
From now until January 15, a new “Super Green Pass,” which can only be obtained through vaccination or recent recovery, will be required for cultural activities — although not museums — and inside restaurants.
However, having a coffee at the bar of a cafe and eating outside is allowed without a Green Pass.
The restrictions will be further tightened in regions at higher risk of coronavirus.
Currently most of Italy is classed as the lowest of four levels, which range from white to yellow, orange and red.
Two regions are yellow — Friuli Venezia Giulia and Bolzano, which both border Austria, a country in partial lockdown over the number of cases there.