Duterte regrets Myanmar ‘genocide’ remark

Second-placed series of images of World Press Photo 2018 contest for General News Stories shows Rohingya refugees carrying their belongings after fleeing Myanmar, as they walk on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River, Bangladesh. (File Photo: By Kevin Frayer, Getty Images via Reuters)
Updated 16 April 2018
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Duterte regrets Myanmar ‘genocide’ remark

  • Philippine president apologizes to Burma, saying he was being sarcastic because of European countries
  • Duterte pointed out that it wasn’t his intention to interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte apologized on Friday to Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, for saying that “genocide” is taking place in Myanmar.
Duterte made the “genocide” comment in a speech on April 5, in which he also expressed willingness to accept Rohingya refugees.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said Duterte’s change of statement was “expected of him.”
In a news briefing at the Davao International Airport upon his return from Boao Forum on Asia in China early Friday morning, the president pointed out that it wasn’t his intention to interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs. He added that his “genocide” comment was sarcastic.
Addressing Suu Kyi, Duterte said: “I will apologize to you but if you have noticed, my statement was almost a satire ... because these Europeans are saying there’s a lot of violations of human rights in Burma.”
“They keep on attacking Burma ... So I say, what are you doing? Do you have any plans to provide a safe sanctuary even for a moment for those who are really the victims of war? There’s a civil war going on. None, they have no (plans),” he added.
While Duterte has offered to accept Rohingya refugees, he also said that “we should split it with Europe.”
“They keep on criticizing us, Aung (San Suu) Kyi and the others. Now, why did I say that? Madam Chancellor, let me confess to you publicly. I was making a ... a very sarcastic (remark),” Duterte said.
“I was just adapting their findings that there are a lot of violations in your country. I am not ready to intervene in your (internal affairs). I was just using (it) because I said, if you are willing, you guys in Europe, to receive, provide sanctuary or, in the meantime, allow the Rohingyas to stay in your country, I will also do it,” he continued.
Asked for a comment on Duterte’s apology, presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said “it was in regard to his earlier statement which was more in the nature of sarcasm directed at European and Western countries that criticized the alleged human rights violations (in Myanmar) with no accompanying offer (of) sanctuary to the refugees.
“The apology was made in regard to PRRD’s (President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s) adopting the conclusion of the aforesaid critical governments that there were violations of human rights in Myanmar which would appear to be an intrusion into (their internal) affairs,” he added.
Panelo added that the offer to provide a place for the refugees was consistent with Duterte’s and the Filipino people’s compassionate and accommodating nature and the president’s policy of assisting those perceived to be victims of human rights violations from any part of the world.
Meanwhile, Casiple, when asked to comment on Duterte’s apology to the Myanmar leader, said: “That’s expected of him.”
“Even his genocide remark was expected of him. I think it’s because he is under attack on that issue (human rights). So I think that’s why he made that remark,” Casiple told Arab News.
“The problem is, Myanmar reacted to his comment. And considering the importance of the ASEAN to his foreign policy... what he did was the logical thing to do. He apologized. So that kills two birds with one stone,” he added,
Casiple also stressed that it’s a different case when the President is talking of formal policy. “Because it’s not spoken. It has to be a written agreement. So that would have to go through (Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan) Cayetano and so on.
“But the off-hand comments are basically his own, and I’ve always said to the media, don’t believe him. Only when he does something, then that would be it,” he added.


Kim’s ‘bitter sorrow’ as North Korea bus crash kills 32 Chinese

Updated 54 min 32 sec ago
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Kim’s ‘bitter sorrow’ as North Korea bus crash kills 32 Chinese

  • Beijing is Pyongyang’s sole major ally, providing an important economic and political buffer against international opprobrium
  • For some, North Korea provides a window into what Communist China may have looked like decades ago

BEIJING: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed his “bitter sorrow” after dozens of Chinese tourists were killed when a bus they were traveling in plunged off a bridge.
Thirty-two Chinese tourists and four North Koreans perished in the accident south of Pyongyang Sunday night, Chinese officials and state media said. Two other Chinese nationals were injured.
In a rare admission of negative news from North Korea’s tightly controlled propaganda network, the KCNA news agency on Tuesday said Kim met personally with the Chinese ambassador in Pyongyang and later visited survivors in hospital.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling party, carried a front-page on Kim’s actions, including pictures of him in a doctor’s white coat, holding the two survivors’ hands as they lay in their hospital beds.
Although such a move might be unsurprising in other countries, it is an unusual portrayal of Kim, who is usually shown presiding over formal meetings or visiting work or army units.
Kim “said that the unexpected accident brought bitter sorrow to his heart and that he couldn’t control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives,” KCNA reported.
The North Korean leader said his people “take the tragic accident as their own misfortune,” it added.
The fulsomeness of Kim’s comments reflects the importance of China — and its tourists — to his country and economy.
Beijing is Pyongyang’s sole major ally, providing an important economic and political buffer against international opprobrium.
Their relationship was forged in the blood of the Korean War, and while it has soured more recently, with China increasingly exasperated by the North’s nuclear antics and enforcing UN Security Council sanctions against it, there has been an improvement in recent weeks.
Last month, Kim embarked on his first overseas trip since inheriting power in 2011 to finally pay his respects to Chinese President Xi Jinping and was warmly welcomed in Beijing.
China is by far the biggest source of tourists for the North, with direct flights and a long land border connecting the neighbor, and tens of thousands are believed to visit every year, many crossing via train through the Chinese border city of Dandong.
For some, North Korea provides a window into what Communist China may have looked like decades ago.
In contrast Western visitors to the North once averaged around 5,000 a year, but numbers have been hit recently by a US travel ban — Americans accounted for around 20 percent of the market — and official warnings from other countries.
Xinhua news agency reported that the bus had fallen from a bridge in North Hwanghae province.
China’s state broadcaster showed images of a large overturned vehicle, with light rain falling on rescue vehicles at night and doctors attending to a patient.
KCNA said the crash was “an unexpected traffic accident that claimed heavy casualties among Chinese tourists.” It gave no breakdown on the numbers killed or injured.
The Chinese foreign ministry said Tuesday a group of officials and five medical experts had arrived in Pyongyang to assist the North in treating the injured and dealing with the aftermath.
They also visited a temporary morgue for the dead to check their identities and express condolences, it said.
North Hwanghae province lies south of Pyongyang and stretches to the border with South Korea. It includes the city of Kaesong, an ancient Korean capital with historical sites and, until recently, a manufacturing complex operated with the South.
The tour group was traveling by bus from Kaesong to Pyongyang when the accident happened, according to the independent Seoul-based website NK News, which cited an unnamed source.
North Korean roads are largely poor and potholed, and in many areas, they are dirt rather than tarmac. Vehicles are sometimes forced to ford rivers or take detours when bridges are unpassable.
But the route from Pyongyang to Kaesong is one of the best in the country.
It runs north-south from the Chinese border to the Demilitarized Zone on the border with South Korea but has little traffic, like all North Korean highways.
Tank traps have been installed along the road in many locations — sets of high concrete columns on either side of the road that can easily be blown up to create an obstruction for invading armored vehicles.