Rohingya refugee crisis a ‘grave security risk’, ICG warns

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army may “shift to cross-border attacks” using Bangladesh as a base for recruitment and training, conflict analysts ICG warned on Thursday. Above, a young Rohingya refugee holds a toy gun at the Shamlapur camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Rohingya refugee crisis a ‘grave security risk’, ICG warns

YANGON: Prolonged displacement of Rohingya refugees in squalid Bangladeshi camps poses a “grave security risk,” conflict analysts ICG warned Thursday, raising the specter of militants recruiting among the displaced and launching cross-border attacks on Myanmar.
Raids by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on August 25 sparked the vicious Myanmar army response, which has forced more than 620,000 Rohingya to flee Rakhine state for Bangladesh.
ARSA “appears determined to regroup and remain relevant” and may draw on desperate Rohingya refugees languishing in camps for future operations, the ICG International Crisis Group said in the report.
The group may “shift to cross-border attacks” using Bangladesh as a base for recruitment and training, the study said, cautioning the risk of an ever-deepening cycle of violence is all too real.
“Such attacks would have profoundly negative consequences,” straining Myanmar-Bangladesh relations and worsening contempt for the Rohingya “that would further diminish prospects of an eventual refugee return.”
Global outcry over the refugee crisis, one of the worst in recent history, has triggered a hyper-defensive response inside the country, where anti-Rohingya attitudes have hardened since ARSA’s emergence.
Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group eligible for citizenship, instead calling them “Bengali,” suggesting they are illegal immigrants.
In another serious looming risk, ICG warned that Rohingya’s plight has become a “cause celebre of the Muslim world” with Al-Qaeda, Daesh and other global jihadi groups calling for attacks on Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military has repeatedly used the terror threat to justify its campaign in northern Rakhine state.
ARSA has distanced itself from any wider global cause for jihad, saying it is only fighting to protect Rohingya rights.
International pressure is ratcheting up on Myanmar.
This week the UN rights chief said Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya showed possible “elements of genocide,” as calls for the safe and sustainable repatriation of refugees grows.
Myanmar refutes any wrongdoing saying it was forced into a defensive action by ARSA attacks.
It has agreed with Bangladesh to start repatriation of “eligible” refugees within a few months.
But there are widespread doubts over how many Rohingya can prove they are entitled to return to Rakhine, or want to go back to areas riddled with communal mistrust and where their villages were razed.
China, a key strategic ally of Myanmar, is pitching itself as an arbiter in the crisis, and has repeatedly urged the international community to take a softline on Myanmar.
But pressure is mounting in the West — particularly Washington — to reimpose targeted sanctions on Myanmar military figures.
Sanctions were slowly rolled back in recent years as reward for democratic gains after decades of outright junta rule.
The ICG study said any fresh sanctions would backfire by isolating Myanmar and calcifying hatred toward the Rohingya.


German city of Hamburg to restrict older diesel vehicles

A car passes a traffic sign showing a ban on diesel cars at the Max-Brauer Allee in downtown Hamburg, Germany, on May 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
Updated 51 min 58 sec ago
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German city of Hamburg to restrict older diesel vehicles

  • Diesel bans will affect two streets, non-Euro-6 models
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.

BERLIN: Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, will ban the most polluting diesel vehicles from two major streets from next week, a move that could spur others to follow suit and raise pressure on carmakers to consider costly vehicle refits.
Hamburg, home to around 1.8 million people, said on Wednesday the ban would start on May 31 and affect diesel models that do not meet the latest Euro-6 emissions standards.
This follows a ruling in February by Germany’s top administrative court that the cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf should consider bans for older diesels.
The detailed publication of that ruling last Friday showed local authorities were entitled to implement targeted bans with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels into line with European Union rules, although curbs affecting wider city areas should only be phased in over time.
Bans on diesel vehicles from city centers are also planned in Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to bar new diesel cars from entering the city center as soon as next year.
Since the German ruling was disclosed, the environment minister of Germany’s northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, has said banning older diesel vehicles could also be an option for the regional capital Kiel, a city of about 250,000 people.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze — a member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s coalition government — urged carmakers to roll out retrofits for diesel cars to lower emissions. “Driving bans like those in Hamburg show how serious the situation is,” she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “It’s up to the car industry now.”
Levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted by diesel engines and known to cause respiratory disease should fall significantly as more efficient Euro-6 models are sold and emissions-cleaning software updates take effect, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
The bans in Hamburg affect a section of about 1.6 km (one mile) on Stresemannstrasse, where the restrictions will apply only to commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tons or more, and a section of about 580 meters on Max-Brauer-Allee, covering all diesel vehicles.
Both thoroughfares are in Altona, a busy district in the west of the city.
Drivers aiming for a destination on the two affected streets, including residents, trash collectors, suppliers and taxis, will be exempt from the restrictions as they are designed to filter out through traffic, a spokesman for Hamburg’s environment and energy department said.
Of the 330,000 diesel cars on Hamburg’s roads, only about 116,000 have the Euro-6 technology that was introduced in 2014, according to local government data.
Police will make random checks and fine drivers of older diesel cars 25 euros ($30) and truck owners up to 75 euros for violating the new rules, he said.