Myanmar’s delaying tactics blocking Rohingya return: Bangladesh PM

Rohingya refugees arriving by boat at Shah Parir Dwip on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River after fleeing violence in Myanmar. (File/AFP/Adib Chowdhury)
Updated 26 September 2018
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Myanmar’s delaying tactics blocking Rohingya return: Bangladesh PM

  • Patience is growing thin with Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and its military that wields the “main power” there
  • Myanmar has said it is ready to take back the refugees and has built transit centers to house them initially on their return

NEW YORK: Bangladesh’s leader accused neighboring Myanmar of finding new excuses to delay the return of more than 700,000 Rohingya who were forced across the border over the past year, and said in an interview late Tuesday that under no circumstance would the refugees remain permanently in her already crowded country.
“I already have 160 million people in my country,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, when asked whether Bangladesh would be willing to walk back its policy against permanent integration. “I can’t take any other burden. I can’t take it. My country cannot bear.”
Hasina was speaking to Reuters in New York, where she is attending the annual United Nations meeting of world leaders.
The prime minister, who faces a national election in December, said she does not want to pick a fight with Myanmar over the refugees.
But she suggested patience is growing thin with Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and its military that she said wields the “main power” there.
Hasina has previously called on the international community to pressure Myanmar to implement the deal.
Calls to Myanmar’s government spokesman, Zaw Htay, went unanswered. He said recently that he will no longer answer media questions by phone, but will answer questions at a biweekly press conference.
Rohingya fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh after a bloody military campaign against the Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The two countries reached a deal in November to begin repatriation within two months, but it has not started, with stateless Rohingya still crossing the border into Bangladesh and the refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar.
“They agree everything, but unfortunately they don’t act, that is the problem,” Hasina said of Myanmar. “Everything is set but ... every time they try to find some new excuse,” she told Reuters.
Myanmar has said it is ready to take back the refugees and has built transit centers to house them initially on their return.
But it has complained that Bangladesh has not provided its officials with the correct forms. Bangladesh has rejected those claims and UN aid agencies say it is not yet safe for the refugees to return.
Given the delays, Bangladesh has been preparing new homes on a remote island called Bhasan Char, which rights groups have said could be subject to flooding. Cox’s Bazar is also vulnerable to flooding but this year’s monsoon season was light.
Hasina said building permanent structures for refugees on the mainland “is not at all a possibility (and) not acceptable” since they are Myanmar citizens and must return.
Rohingya regard themselves as native to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, but are widely considered interlopers by the country’s Buddhist majority and are denied citizenship.
Human rights groups and Rohingya activists have estimated thousands died in last year’s security crackdown, which was sparked by attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security forces in Rakhine in August 2017.
This week, a US government investigation reported that Myanmar’s military waged a planned, coordinated campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the Rohingya.
Myanmar has rejected similar findings as “one-sided” and said it had conducted a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.
Ahead of December’s election, Hasina and her ruling Awami League have been on the defensive following student protests over an unregulated transport industry. The protest was triggered after a speeding bus killed two students in Dhaka.
However, the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has been in disarray after its leader and former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, was jailed for corruption in February — charges she says were part of a plot to keep her and her family out of politics.


Buber picks up the taxi challenge on the streets of Kabul

Updated 17 November 2018
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Buber picks up the taxi challenge on the streets of Kabul

  • Popular ride-hailing services such as Uber and Careem declined to run on Afghanistan’s chaotic and unmapped roads
  • Buber will be officially launched in Kabul in January 2019

KABUL: Booking a ride that picks you up from your doorstep has been a dream for many Afghans for a long time. The dream is now coming true. After the popular ride-hailing services such as Uber and Careem declined to run on Afghanistan’s chaotic and unmapped roads, a private national firm came up with a local solution: Buber.
Currently on its test run, the service will be officially launched in Kabul in January 2019.
Basharmal Dawlatzai, a Buber driver, says the initiative in a congested city where violence and criminal activities have been part of daily life for years, is a relief for both clients and drivers.
“It is very convenient for both sides, the customer does not need to walk to a street, wait for taxi in cold or hot weather and bargain with a taxi he or she does not know,” Dawlatzai told Arab News. “We go to their homes and drop them at their favored destination, which saves both sides time and hassle.”
He has been with Buber for two months and has taken around employees of Afghanistan’s Holding Group (AHG) that owns Buber, which in Dari means “Take me”.
AHG’s headquarters near the ancient Darul-Aman palace is tucked away behind blast walls with a sprawling compound that enjoys far better security measures than many state institutions which are the targets of routine attacks by militants in Afghanistan.
The security precautions at AHG include a series of body searches by armed guards as well as scanners and the layers of checks that make it look as if the compound is in top-secret location.
There is a different world and mood inside, and for a moment you may think that this is not Afghanistan, given the pace of its work and manner of efficiency. Groups of young sleek men and women are busy typing away on computers or discussing their regular daily activities.
AHG hopes to gallop and make Afghanistan catch up with the revolution in the field of technology that has spread across the globe in recent years.
Staff at AHG say that since its launch in 2009 the company has provided professional business services to more than 700 organizations across Afghanistan. Its clients range from small companies, non-profits and corporations to development institutions and government customers. It offers a range of services that include legal and human resources support and assistance with licensing, visas, payroll, taxation, audit and procurement.
Now, AHG is working on its new innovation, Afghanistan Technology Services (ATS), which covers Hisab (accounting) and Buber, online taxi ordering similar to Uber.
The Hisab application allows customers to pay online power and water bills and order goods for home delivery, as well as paying for Buber.
The online car ordering has been operating in Afghanistan for several years, but business is tailing off for the other two firms, which according to officials had not managed to develop an advanced application.
“Technology is taking over each and every thing across the world, we do not want to be behind those guys and we would like to reach somewhere and rebuild Afghanistan. This is our mission, to rebuild Afghanistan,” said Zaheeruddin Naeabkhail, Buber’s senior manager.
Until its launch in January Buber is on a test run to make sure that the application works smoothly. It has enlisted 500 vehicles, with Kabul being the immediate target, and with the intention to expand to other major cities later.
Not many will be able to afford the Buber service: Smart phone owners and literate people are its target.
Even the drivers will have to be literate.
In a country where there is no fixed rate for taxis and customers usually bargain, Buber will have fixed prices and can come to a customer’s desired address for pick up.
In a country riven by violence and crimes, such as abductions, Buber can offer peace of mind to clients as it has a tracking mechanism which clients can share with anyone they want to for their safety, AHG officials said.
“The problem for now in the market is the security concern. We have this facility for the user as well as the driver that allows them to be able to track users through our GPS,” Naeabkhail said.
Drivers will be registered with full details for security measures and they can help the police with information if anything happens to a client between pickup and drop-off.
The application can be a great help for the customer to avoid congested areas and routes where there is protest or there has been an attack, officials said, adding this will save time for the client and money for the driver, as well as reducing pollution.
“This application is very challenging application, nobody else has it, it is not easy for others to build it easily. Afghans have developed the application themselves,” Naeabkhail said.
Roadblocks created by officials, some embassies, foreign troops and factional leaders are the key challenges and Buber hopes to address that with the help of Google, he said.
“The main challenge that we face is the map, because Afghanistan is not mapped very well. We would like the support of Google if they are willing to help us … it is like general support for the public at large and also for any company that comes later and invests.”