Myanmar and Bangladesh sign deal over Rohingya repatriation

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi earlier met with Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood in Naypyidaw to hammer out a deal to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Rakhine state. (AP)
Updated 23 November 2017
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Myanmar and Bangladesh sign deal over Rohingya repatriation

YANGON: Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal on Thursday paving the way for the possible repatriation of Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Rakhine state, officials said, as global pressure mounts over the refugee crisis.
More than 620,000 Rohingya have poured into Bangladesh since August, running from a Myanmar military crackdown that Washington said this week clearly constitutes “ethnic cleansing.”
After weeks of tussling over the terms of repatriation, the two sides inked a deal in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw on Thursday following talks between Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Dhaka’s Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali.
“Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding today,” Myint Kyaing, the permanent secretary of Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, confirmed to AFP.
He said he was unauthorized to provide more details.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay also tweeted that an “agreement on repatriation” had been signed, though he could not be reached by phone for further comment.
In brief remarks to the press, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Ali said: “This is a primary step. (They) will take back (Rohingya). Now we have to start working.”
But the scope of the repatriation — such as how many Rohingya will be allowed back — and the timeline remain unclear.
Rights groups have raised concerns about the process, including where the minority will be resettled after hundreds of their villages were razed, and how their safety will be ensured in a country where anti-Muslim sentiment is surging.
The signing of the deal came ahead of a highly-anticipated visit to both nations from Pope Francis, who has been outspoken about his sympathy for the plight of the Rohingya.
The stateless Rohingya have been the target of communal violence and vicious anti-Muslim sentiment in mainly Buddhist Myanmar for years.
They have also been systematically oppressed by the government, which stripped the minority of citizenship and severely restricts their movement, as well as their access to basic services.
The latest unrest erupted after Rohingya rebels attacked police posts on August 25.
The army backlash rained violence across northern Rakhine, with refugees recounting nightmarish scenes of soldiers and Buddhist mobs slaughtering villagers and burning down entire communities.
The military denies all allegations but has restricted access to the conflict zone.
Suu Kyi’s government has blocked visas for a UN-fact finding mission tasked with probing accusations of military abuse.


Business booms ahead of Afghan election

Campaign poster of the parliamentary candidate Fida Mohammad Olfat Saleh, is displayed over the shops during the elections campaign for the upcoming election in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. (AP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Business booms ahead of Afghan election

  • Millions of dollars have been spent by some candidates during their month-long campaign, according to unofficial estimates

KABUL: If you want to hold a family function such as a birthday or wedding ceremony in Kabul’s posh hotels, you need to be patient and revise your schedule as they are usually booked up several weeks in advance.
The smell of food is often strong as you walk into these hotels, as thousands of kilograms of rice, meat, chicken and fruit are served daily.
The campaign for the Oct. 20 election has created a short-term boom for certain types of businesses in Kabul and other major cities. Many of the capital’s famous barbers and beauty salons have been working overtime in recent weeks and earning far more money than they normally do. So too have the media and advertising firms.
Millions of dollars have been spent by some candidates during their month-long campaign, according to unofficial estimates. Some even pay would-be voters and give them free food, but others cannot afford to do so. Candidate and former minister Ramazan Bashardost does not feed or pay people to vote. On the contrary, he sells his business cards to would-be voters to cover fuel money for his vehicle.
He urges them, “with a relaxed conscience,” to take food and cash from rich candidates, but to vote for those who have not enriched themselves via corruption.