Bangladesh says will coordinate with UN over Rohingya return

A relocated Rohingya refugees family waits to get allotted a temporary shelter at Balukhali refugee camp, 50 kilometres from, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, in this Jan. 17, 2018 photo. (AP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Bangladesh says will coordinate with UN over Rohingya return

DHAKA: Bangladesh on Sunday sought to reassure the international community that a planned repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to conflict-scarred western Myanmar would be “voluntary” and in coordination with the United Nations.
In a briefing to foreign diplomats, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H Mahmood Ali insisted that the operation to return some 750,000 refugees who fled unrest and a military crackdown in Myanmar would involve the UN’s refugee agency.
“In order to ensure that the return is voluntary, Bangladesh has incorporated provisions for involvement of UNHCR and other relevant international organizations in the entire return process,” he said at the meeting in Dhaka.
Plans by Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate the refugees, who face desperate conditions in overcrowded camps near the countries’ shared border, are due to begin within days and last for two years.
But they have been met by angry protest among the Rohingya refugees, with many left traumatized by atrocities including murder, rape and arson attacks on their homes.
Rights groups and the UN have said any repatriations must be voluntary.
They have also expressed concerns about conditions in Myanmar, where many Rohingya settlements have been burned to the ground by soldiers and Buddhist mobs.
UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee is currently visiting the camps in southeastern Bangladesh where around a million of the Muslim minority are now living.
Ali said Bangladesh wanted to “ensure that the agreements facilitate safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return,” the minister said, according to a statement.
He said Myanmar would involve the Red Cross in the repatriation process, adding that it has agreed to allow India, China and Japan to help rebuild homes and villages in Rakhine.
Western diplomats attending the briefing emphasised safe conditions for the repatriation.
“The Rohingya that I have met in the camp do not want to go back to a situation that will be dangerous to them,” US ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat told reporters after the briefing.
“They do not want to go back to uncertainty. And why would any of us want them to go back to uncertainty. Again the conditions have to be safe and acceptable,” she said.
The repatriation deal does not cover the estimated 200,000 Rohingya refugees who were living in Bangladesh prior to October 2016, driven out by previous rounds of communal violence and military operations.


Thailand to ban imports of high-tech trash, plastic waste

Updated 16 August 2018
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Thailand to ban imports of high-tech trash, plastic waste

  • The Thai ban covers 432 types of electronic refuse — from electronic circuit boards to old television and radio parts — and will take effect within six months
  • Thailand’s e-waste ban follows a series of raids that began in May on factories accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste

BANGKOK: Thailand will ban imports of 432 types of scrap electronics within six months, an environment ministry official said on Thursday, the latest country to respond to China’s crackdown on imports of high-tech trash this year.
Southeast Asia nations fear they are the new dumping ground for the world’s trash after China banned the entry of several types of waste as part of a campaign against “foreign garbage.”
Thailand’s ban comes weeks after regional neighbor Vietnam said it would stop issuing new licenses for waste imports and crack down on illegal shipments of paper, plastic and metal.
The Thai ban covers 432 types of electronic refuse — from electronic circuit boards to old television and radio parts — and will take effect within six months, a senior environment ministry official told Reuters on Thursday.
He said the ban was agreed at a meeting on Wednesday chaired by Surasak Kanchanarat, the environment minister.
“The meeting yesterday passed a resolution to stop importing 432 kinds of electronic waste and to ensure...that this is enforced within six months,” said the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Mongukol Pruekwatana, director general of the department of industrial works, told Reuters a full list of banned items would be announced soon.
E-waste — commonly defined as any device with an electric cord or battery — can be mined for valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper. However, it can also include hazardous material such as lead, mercury and cadmium.
Surasak told Thai media on Wednesday that imports of some electronic appliances and second-hand devices would be allowed if these items can be repaired and reused.
Scrap metal, including aluminum, copper and steel, can still be imported for industrial use, but must be separated at the country of origin and cleaned, he said.
Thailand’s e-waste ban follows a series of raids that began in May on factories accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste.
Environmentalists say waste once destined for China is being re-routed to Southeast Asia, and new laws are needed or existing laws better enforced to prevent illegal imports.
Vietnam’s central bank said on Wednesday it has asked banks to tighten lending to projects deemed environmentally unfriendly. It said banks must have strategies for environmental risk management by 2025.
Thailand also planned to ban imports of plastic waste in the next two years, the environment ministry official said, but he gave no details of the program.
The death of a pilot whale in June found with some 80 pieces of plastic rubbish in its stomach focused attention on what environmentalists call Thailand’s “addiction” to plastic bags and packaging.
Thailand’s military government has said improving the country’s waste management infrastructure is a priority and set goals for 2021.
They included cutting the use of plastic bags and bottles in government agencies and businesses, and plastic bans in tourist destinations. A tax on plastic bags has also been mentioned, along with a target to recycle up to 60 percent of plastic by 2021.