Independent probe on Myanmar massacre urged

Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel as members of the Myanmar security forces stand guard in Inn Din village in this Sept. 2, 2017 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Independent probe on Myanmar massacre urged

LONDON: A Reuters investigation into the killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar prompted a demand from Washington for a credible probe into the bloodshed there and calls for the release of two journalists who were arrested while working on the report.
The special report, published overnight, lays out events leading up to the killing of 10 Rohingya men from Inn Din village in Rakhine state who were buried in a mass grave after being hacked to death or shot by Buddhist neighbors and soldiers.
“As with other, previous reports of mass graves, this report highlights the ongoing and urgent need for Burmese authorities to cooperate with an independent, credible investigation into allegations of atrocities in northern Rakhine,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
“Such an investigation would help provide a more comprehensive picture of what happened, clarify the identities of the victims, identify those responsible for human rights abuses and violations, and advance efforts for justice and accountability,” she said.
The UN on Friday described the details of the Reuters report as “alarming” and said that it showed the need for a “full and thorough investigation” into the violence in Rakhine state.
The Myanmar mission to the UN was not immediately available for comment.
The Reuters report drew on interviews with Buddhists who confessed to torching Rohingya homes, burying bodies and killing Muslims in what they said was a frenzy of violence triggered when Rohingya insurgents attacked security posts last August.
The account marked the first time soldiers and paramilitary police have been implicated by testimony from security personnel in arson and killings in the north of Rakhine state that the United Nations has said may amount to genocide.
In the story, Myanmar said its “clearance operation” is a legitimate response to attacks by insurgents.
Asked about the evidence Reuters had uncovered about the massacre, Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay said on Thursday, before publication of the report: “We are not denying the allegations about violations of human rights. And we are not giving blanket denials.”
If there was “strong and reliable primary evidence” of abuses, the government would investigate, he said.
There was no comment from the government following the publication of the report.
Nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled their villages and crossed the border of western Myanmar into Bangladesh since August.
British Labour Party lawmaker Rosena Allin-Khan told BBC’s Newsnight that the Reuters report was consistent with accounts she had heard while working as a doctor at Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh last year.
“We’ve been bystanders to a genocide,” she said. “This evidence marks a turning point because, for the first time since this all started to unfold in August, we have heard from the perpetrators themselves.”
She said that, as well as an international probe, there needed to be a referral to the International Criminal Court.
Human Rights Watch said Myanmar’s military leaders should be held accountable in an international court for alleged crimes against the Rohingya population.
“As more evidence comes out about the pre-planning and intent of the Myanmar armed forces to wipe out Rohingya villages and their inhabitants, the international community ... needs to focus on how to hold the country’s military leaders accountable,” said HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.
Campaign group Fortify Rights also called for an independent investigation.
“The international community needs to stop stalling and do what’s necessary to hold accountable those who are responsible before evidence is tainted or lost, memories fade, and more people suffer,” said the group’s chief executive Matthew Smith.
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said in a tweet: “During the reporting of this article, two Reuters journalists were arrested by Myanmar police. They remain held & must absolutely be released.”
Yanghee Lee, the UN human rights investigator for Myanmar who has been barred from visiting the Rohingya areas, echoed that call and added in a tweet: “Independent & credible investigation needed to get to the bottom of the Inn Din massacre.”


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.