‘Speechless’ Hasina lambastes Myanmar for atrocities

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, center, meets with a Rohingya Muslim child at Kutupalong refugee camp, near the border town of Ukhia, Bangladesh, Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 12 September 2017
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‘Speechless’ Hasina lambastes Myanmar for atrocities

UKHIYA: The Bangladeshi prime minister demanded Tuesday that Myanmar allow the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled recent violence in Buddhist-majority nation — a crisis she said left her speechless.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh would offer the refugees temporary shelter and aid, but that Myanmar should soon “take their nationals back.”
“We will not tolerate injustice,” she said at a rally at the Kutupalong refugee camp, near the border town of Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar district.
On Monday night, she lambasted Buddhist-majority Myanmar for “atrocities” that she said had reached a level beyond description, telling lawmakers she had “no words to condemn Myanmar.”
The crisis has drawn sharp criticism from around the world.
The UN human rights chief said Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya minority was facing what “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” UN rights investigators have been barred from entering the country.
“The Myanmar government should stop pretending that the Rohingya are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages,” Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said Monday in Geneva, calling it a “complete denial of reality.”
Meanwhile, a Rohingya villager in Myanmar said security forces had arrived Monday in the village of Pa Din village, firing guns, setting new fires to homes and driving hundreds of Rohingya to flee.
“People were scared and running out of the village,” the villager said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.
Myanmar police disputed that, saying the houses were burned by terrorists they called Bengalis. That term is used derisively by many in Myanmar to describe the Rohingya, who they say migrated illegally from neighboring Bangladesh, though many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations.
Bangladesh has said it would free 2,000 acres of land for a new camp in Cox’s Bazar district, to help shelter newly arrived Rohingya. The government was also fingerprinting and registering new arrivals.
Kutupalong and another pre-existing Rohingya camps were already beyond capacity. Other new arrivals were staying in schools, or huddling in makeshift settlements with no toilets along roadsides and in open fields.
Basic resources were scarce, including food, clean water and medical aid.
Aid agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of Rohingya, many of whom are arriving hungry and traumatized after walking days through jungles or being packed into rickety wooden boats in search of safety in Bangladesh.
Many tell similar stories — of Myanmar soldiers firing indiscriminately on their villages, burning their homes and warning them to leave or to die. Some say they were attacked by Buddhist mobs.
In the last two weeks, the government hospital in Cox’s Bazar has been overwhelmed by Rohingya patients, with 80 arriving in the last two weeks suffering gunshot wounds as well as bad infections.
At least three Rohingya have been wounded in land mine blasts, and dozens have drowned when boats capsized during sea crossings.
Myanmar’s authorities said more than a week ago that some 400 Rohingya — mostly insurgents — had died in clashes with troops, but it has offered no updated death toll since.
Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and persecution in Myanmar and are denied citizenship despite centuries-olds roots in the Rakhine region.
Before Aug. 25, Bangladesh had already been housing some 500,000 Rohingya who arrived after bloody anti-Muslim rioting in 2012 or amid earlier persecution drives in Myanmar.


France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

Updated 59 min ago
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France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

  • His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent
  • In his country, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as Europe’s savior and next week’s European Parliament elections as a make-or-break moment for the beleaguered European Union.
But Macron is no longer the fresh-faced force who marched into a surprising presidential victory to the rousing EU anthem two years ago. His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent. And at home, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies.
Macron wanted the May 23-26 European Parliament elections to be the key moment that he could push his ambitions for a stronger Europe — but instead, nationalists and populists who criticized the 28-nation bloc could achieve unprecedented success.
They argue that EU leaders have failed to manage migration into the continent and remain out of touch with ordinary workers’ concerns.
“We have a crisis of the European Union. This is a matter of fact. Everywhere in Europe, when you look at the past five to six years, in our country but in a lot of countries, all the extremes, extreme-rights, are increasing,” Macron said Thursday, making an unexpected appeal for European unity on the sidelines of a technology trade show.
“On currency, on digital, on climate action, we need more Europe,” he said. “I want the EU to be more protective of our borders regarding migration, terrorism and so on, but I think if you fragment Europe, there is no chance you have a stronger Europe.”
In person, the 41-year-old Macron comes across as strikingly, sincerely European. A political centrist, he’s at ease quoting Greek playwrights, German thinkers or British economists. France’s youngest president grew up with the EU and has been using the shared European euro currency his whole adult life, and sees it as Europe’s only chance to stay in the global economic game.
Macron has already visited 20 of the EU’s 28 countries in his two years in office, and while he acknowledges the EU’s problems, he wants to fix the bloc — not disassemble it.
Macron won the 2017 presidential election over France’s far-right, anti-immigration party leader Marine Le Pen on a pledge to make Europe stronger to face global competition against the Unites States and China. Since then, he’s had to make compromises with other EU leaders — and clashed with some nations where populist parties govern, from Poland to neighboring Italy.
Four months after his election, Macron outlined his vision for Europe in a sweeping speech at Paris’ Sorbonne university, calling for a joint EU budget, shared military forces and harmonized taxes.
But with Brexit looming and nationalism rising, Macron has had to reconsider his ambitions. He called his political tactics with other EU leaders a “productive confrontation.”
“In Europe, what is expected from France is to clearly say what it wants, its goals, its ambitions, and then be able to build a compromise with Germany to move forward” with other European countries, Macron said last week.
Macron stressed that despite her initial reluctance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed last year to create a eurozone budget they hope will boost investment and provide a safety mechanism for the 19 nations using the euro currency.
In March, Macron sought to draw support for a Europe of “freedom, protection and progress” with a written call to voters in 28 countries to reject nationalist parties that “offer nothing.”
And he proposed to define a roadmap for the EU by the end of this year in a discussion with all member nations and a panel of European citizens.
“There will be disagreement, but is it better to have a static Europe or a Europe that advances, sometimes at different paces, and that is open to all?” he asked.
France and Germany are the two heavyweights in Europe, and Macron can also count on cooperation from pro-European governments of Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and others.
He has made a point, however, of not yet visiting Hungary or Poland, two nations led by populist leaders whom Macron accused last year of “lying” to their people about the EU.
France has also been entangled in a serious diplomatic crisis with Italy over migration into Europe. Italy’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly criticized Macron and is backing his rival Le Pen’s National Rally party in the election this week that aims to fill the European parliament’s 751 seats.
Macron has little chance to repeat Europe-wide what he did in France: rip up the political map by building a powerful centrist movement that weakened the traditional left and right.
The campaign for Macron’s Republic on the Move party is being led by former European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau under a banner called “Renaissance.” The party wants to associate with the pro-market ALDE alliance to create new centrist group at the European Parliament.
But across the continent, the centrists are not expected to come out remotely on top but rank third or even lower behind the parliament’s traditional two biggest groups, the right-wing European People’s Party and the left-wing Socialists and Democrats group.
Even at home, Macron is far from certain of being able to claim victory in the European vote. Polls suggest his party will be among France’s top two vote-getters in the election, which takes place in France on May 26.
But its main rival, the far-right National Rally party, is determined to take revenge on Macron beating Le Pen so decisively in 2017.
Macron’s political opponents across the spectrum are calling on French voters to seize the European vote to reject his government’s policies.
While he won 64% of the presidential vote in 2017, French polls show that Macron’s popularity has been around half that for the past year.
It reached record lows when France’s yellow vest movement broke out last fall, demanding relief from high taxes and stagnant wages for French workers, then slightly rose as extensive violence during yellow vest protests, especially in Paris, dampened support for the movement’s cause.
Still, the yellow vests are not going away. New protests against Macron and his government are planned for the EU election day.