Rohingya insurgents open to peace but Myanmar cease-fire ending

Rohingya refugees walk on a muddy road after collecting relief aid at Kutupalaong refugee camp in Bangladeshi district of Ukhia October 6, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 07 October 2017
0

Rohingya insurgents open to peace but Myanmar cease-fire ending

YANGON: Muslim Rohingya insurgents said on Saturday they are ready to respond to any peace move by the Myanmar government but a one-month cease-fire they declared to enable the delivery of aid in violence-racked Rakhine State is about to end.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) did not say what action it would take after the cease-fire ends at midnight on Monday but it was “determined to stop the tyranny and oppression” waged against the Rohingya people.
“If at any stage, the Burmese government is inclined to peace, then ARSA will welcome that inclination and reciprocate,” the group said in a statement.
Government spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.
When the ARSA announced its one-month cease-fire from Sept. 10, a government spokesman said: “We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists.”
The rebels launched coordinated attacks on about 30 security posts and an army camp on Aug. 25 with the help of hundreds of disaffected Rohingya villagers, many wielding sticks or machetes, killing about a dozen people.
In response, the military unleashed a sweeping offensive across the north of Rakhine State, driving more than half a million Rohingya villagers into Bangladesh in what the United Nations branded a textbook example of “ethnic cleansing.”
Myanmar rejects that. It says more than 500 people have been killed in the fighting, most of them “terrorists” who have been attacking civilians and torching villages.
The ability of the ARSA, which only surfaced in October last year, to mount any sort of challenge to the Myanmar army is not known but it does not appear to have been able to put up resistance to the military offensive unleashed in August.
Inevitably, there are doubts about how the insurgents can operate in areas where the military has driven out the civilian population, cutting the insurgents off from recruits, food, funds and information.
The ARSA accused the government of using murder, arson and rape as “tools of depopulation.”
The ARSA denies links to foreign Islamists.
In an interview with Reuters in March, ARSA leader Ata Ullah linked the creation of the group to communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine in 2012, when nearly 200 people were killed and 140,000, mostly Rohingya, displaced.
The group says it is fighting for the rights of the Rohingya, who have never been regarded as an indigenous minority in Myanmar and so have been denied citizenship under a law that links nationality to ethnicity.
The group repeated their demand that Rohingya be recognized as a “native indigenous” ethnic group, adding that all Rohingya people should be allowed “to return home safely with dignity ... to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
The Rohingya have long faced discrimination and repression in Rakhine State where bad blood between them and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, stemming from violence by both sides, goes back generations.
The ARSA condemned the government for blocking humanitarian assistance in Rakhine and said it was willing to discuss cease-fires with international organizations so aid could be delivered.
Some 515,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh but thousands remain in Rakhine.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced scathing criticism for not doing more to stop the violence, although a military-drafted constitution gives her no power over the security forces.
Suu Kyi has condemned rights abuses and said Myanmar was ready to start a process agreed with Bangladesh in 1993 by which anyone verified as a refugee would be accepted back.
Many refugees fear they will not have the paperwork they believe Myanmar will demand to allow them back.


Recording of crying children at US border adds to outrage

Updated 10 min 42 sec ago
0

Recording of crying children at US border adds to outrage

  • Human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury said she received the tape from a whistleblower and told ProPublica it was recorded in the last week.
  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the audio but said children taken into custody by the government are being treated humanely.

BROWNSVILLE, Texas: An audio recording that appears to capture the heartbreaking voices of small Spanish-speaking children crying out for their parents at a US immigration facility took center stage Monday in the growing uproar over the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.
“Papa! Papa!” one child is heard weeping in the audio file that was first reported by the nonprofit ProPublica and later provide to The Associated Press.
Human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury said she received the tape from a whistleblower and told ProPublica it was recorded in the last week. She did not provide details about where exactly it was recorded.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the audio but said children taken into custody by the government are being treated humanely. She said the government has high standards for detention centers and the children are well cared for, stressing that Congress needs to plug loopholes in the law so families can stay together.
The audio surfaced as politicians and advocates flocked to the US-Mexico border to visit US immigration detention centers and turn up the pressure on the Trump administration.
And the backlash over the policy widened. The Mormon church said it is “deeply troubled” by the separation of families at the border and urged national leaders to find compassionate solutions. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, reversed a decision to send a National Guard helicopter from his state to the Mexican border to assist in a deployment, citing the administration’s “cruel and inhumane” policy.
At the border, an estimated 80 people pleaded guilty Monday to immigration charges, including some who asked the judge questions such as “What’s going to happen to my daughter?” and “What will happen to my son?“
Attorneys at the hearings said the immigrants had brought two dozen boys and girls with them to the US, and the judge replied that he didn’t know what would happen to their children.

Several groups of lawmakers toured a nearby facility in Brownsville, Texas, that houses hundreds of immigrant children.
Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico said the location was a former hospital converted into living quarters for children, with rooms divided by age group. There was even a small room for infants, complete with two high chairs, where two baby boys wore matching rugby style shirts with orange and white stripes.

Another group of lawmakers on Sunday visited an old warehouse in McAllen, Texas, where hundreds of children are being held in cages created by metal fencing. One cage held 20 youngsters.
More than 1,100 people were inside the large, dark facility, which is divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children.
In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for people trying to enter the US, Border Patrol officials say they must crack down on migrants and separate adults from children as a deterrent to others trying to get into the US illegally.
“When you exempt a group of people from the law ... that creates a draw,” said Manuel Padilla, the Border Patrol’s chief agent there.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, speaking to reporters during a tour of San Diego immigration detention facilities with Rep. Juan Vargas and other House Democrats, said family separation is a “heartbreaking, barbarian issue that could be changed in a moment by the president of the United States rescinding his action.”
“It so challenges the conscience of our country that it must be changed and must be changed immediately,” she said during a news conference at a San Diego terminal that is connected to the airport in Tijuana, Mexico by a bridge.  
US Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced late Monday that he was introducing emergency legislation intended to keep immigrant families together.
“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers,” Cruz said. “This must stop.”
President Donald Trump emphatically defended his administration’s policy Monday, again falsely blaming Democrats.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” he declared. “Not on my watch.”
___
Snow reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Mike Melia in Boston contributed to this report.