Bangladesh Army steps up as refugees suffer heavy rain

A Rohingya Muslim refugee wades through floodwater at Thyangkhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2017
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Bangladesh Army steps up as refugees suffer heavy rain

COX’S BAZAR: Bangladesh’s army was ordered Wednesday to take a bigger role in helping hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled violence in Myanmar, amid warnings it could take six months to register the new refugees.
Troops would be deployed immediately in Cox’s Bazar near the border where more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims have arrived since Aug. 25, said Obaidul Quader, a senior minister and deputy head of the ruling Awami League party.
Soldiers would help build shelters and toilets for the thousands of refugees still sleeping in the open under pounding monsoon rain, Quader told AFP.
“The army presence is especially needed on the spot to construct their shelters, which is a very tough task, and ensure sanitation,” he said.
The latest order came from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Quader said.
The soldiers would also ensure order and assist with distributing relief, a chaotic process that seen stampedes as donors have hurled food and other staples from moving trucks.
Previously troops had been tasked with transporting foreign relief supplies from the country’s port city of Chittagong airport to Cox’s Bazar where the overcrowded camps are located.
As the handful of ill-equipped camps rapidly reached capacity, Bangladesh announced it would create a new site capable of housing some 400,000 refugees within 10 days.
Extra water pumps have been installed at some locations, and concrete rings for latrines stockpiled along the roadside.
But there were few signs of major construction work underway, with many refugees complaining they were being ordered to move on without any idea where to go.
“We don’t know where would we go. We are poor. We managed to buy the bamboo and tarpaulin with people’s help, and now I have to relocate again,” said Mujibur Rahman, a 48-year-old Rohingya father of 10.
“I don’t know when this moving game will stop.”
The government has been trying to herd refugees into designated areas, fearful that nearby cities could be overwhelmed if they are left unchecked.
“I tried to go to the place where the Bangladeshi government said they set aside land for us. But locals drove us out asking for money to settle us down,” a Rohingya community leader, Yusuf Majhi, told AFP.
Local authorities have set up a dozen relief centers and several emergency kitchens to streamline aid distribution.
But efforts by the army to officially register the new arrivals amid the crowded camps has been moving at a glacial pace, said Brig. Gen. Saidur Rahman.
“We are aiming to finish it within five or six months,” said Rahman, who heads the registration drive.
More registration boothes would be erected to complete the mammoth task, he added.
Monsoon downpours are compounding the misery.
Cox’s Bazar has been pounded with 21.4 cm of rain in the past five days, raising fears of landslides in the unstable, muddy hills on which thousands of refugees were camped.
Hundreds of refugees were forced to abandon their shanties Wednesday in a rubber plantation after heavy rain flooded the area, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.
“My tent has been flooded in knee-deep water. The children are suffering from the cold,” said Nur Mohammad, a 62-year-old Rohingya man who arrived in Bangladesh with 16 members of his family.
Rohingya, who are predominantly Muslim, are reviled by many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The UN human rights chief has described the systematic attacks against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar’s security forces as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”


Philippine president bolsters security, defense ties with Malaysia

Updated 16 July 2018
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Philippine president bolsters security, defense ties with Malaysia

  • Both Southeast Asian leaders have a dented human rights reputation globally although Mahathir has softened his strongman outlook
  • Piracy and armed robbery against ships remains an ongoing issue for leaders in Southeast Asia as oil and supplies worth billions are lost at sea each year

KUALA LUMPUR: President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reaffirmed to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation when they met for the first time in Putrajaya on Monday.

The meeting took place at the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office, where both strongmen “renewed and reaffirmed the long-standing brotherhood and friendship between the Philippines and Malaysia.”

“President Duterte likewise renewed the commitment to further strengthen defense and security cooperation at the bilateral and regional level,” according to a statement from Duterte’s office.

The two neighbors have enjoyed a good relationship despite the change of government in Malaysia, as the over-60-year rule by the National Front coalition ended abruptly during Malaysia’s elections on May 9.

Both Southeast Asian leaders have a dented human rights reputation globally, although Mahathir has softened his strongman outlook since he was put in power for the second time in May.

The newly formed government led by the world’s oldest leader, Mahathir Mohamad, has vowed to restore the “rule of law” in Malaysia.

Duterte pointed out in his statement “the need to address terrorism and violent extremism in the region, as well as transnational crime such as piracy and armed robbery at sea and the illegal drug trade.”

Piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region remains an ongoing issue for leaders in Southeast Asia as oil and supplies worth billions are lost at sea each year.

Southeast Asia has become a hotbed for Daesh-inspired terrorist activities and threats, and Duterte and Mahathir reaffirmed the need to boost the security and defense ties of both nations in the Southeast Asia region.

Malaysia’s state of Sabah is facing kidnapping threats from the Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

In 2017, a large-scale kidnapping plan in Sabah and Central Philippines was uncovered by military intelligence.

The same year, Marawi was under siege from Daesh-inspired militants. The Philippines declared Marawi “liberated” from terrorism. The aftermath cost 1,000 lives with more than 350,000 people in the city displaced.

Meanwhile, Malaysia played an important role when it became the third-party broker of a long-awaited peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.

“President Duterte expressed appreciation for Malaysia’s sustained support for the quest for the just and lasting peace and development in Mindanao,” his official statement said.

Both leaders stressed the need toward “working closely together bilaterally and at ASEAN” in a region of more than 500 million where “greater stability and security in the region” is of the utmost importance.

The two countries are quietly in a land-lock over an 1878 land lease agreement on Sabah since the Federation of Malaysia was officially formed in 1963. Nevertheless, the Philippines’ long-standing claims over Sabah were off the plate during the bilateral discussion between Duterte and Mahathir.

On Sunday night before the meeting, both strongmen enjoyed watching the fight between Philippines’ world-renowned boxer Manny Pacquiao and Argentina’s fighter Lucas Matthysse.