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.


Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

Updated 17 February 2019
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Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

  • President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval
  • Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval.
A US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Shanahan was likely to approve the $3.6 billion being redirected from the military construction budget.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump can use certain Department of Defense funding to build the wall.
According to the law, the defense secretary has to decide whether the wall is militarily necessary before money from the military construction budget can be used.
“We always anticipated that this would create a lot of attention and since moneys potentially could be redirected, you can imagine the concern this generates,” Shanahan told reporters traveling back with him from his trip to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe.
“Very deliberately, we have not made any decisions, we have identified the steps we would take to make those decisions,” Shanahan said.
He added that military planners had done the initial analysis and he would start reviewing it on Sunday.
Officials have said that the administration had found nearly $7 billion to reallocate to the wall, including about $3.6 billion from the military construction budget and $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction fund.
The US defense official said Shanahan would meet with the service secretaries in the coming days to pick which specific projects the money should come from.
Shanahan said that planners had identified the different sources of money that could be used, but he had not decided specifically what projects it would impact and ultimately it was his decision.
“I am not required to do anything,” he said.
Shanahan said he did not expect to take money away from projects like military housing.
Poor standards of military housing were highlighted by recent Reuters reporting, which described rampant mold and pest infestations, childhood lead poisoning, and service families often powerless to challenge private landlords in business with their military employers.
“Military housing, what’s been interesting- I’ve received a number of letters, I’ve had lots of feedback, do not jeopardize projects that are underway,” Shanahan said.
“As we step our way through the process, we’ll use good judgment,” Shanahan said.
The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration.
Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners.
“We are following the law, using the rules and we’re not bending the rules,” Shanahan said.